My large-shadowed predecessor, James F., has covered this before. People fight tooth-and-nail to prevent slot machines in the District despite the fact that gambling is already supported by the city in the form of lotteries. Where slots, blackjack, craps, and roulette usually feature 90-95% payouts, lotteries are far more hopeless*. Yet lotteries are considered harmless. At worst, they're called a "poor tax" since the impoverished are more likely to buy tickets to try and hit it big.
Toby picked up a free copy of Lotto People magazine at a local convenience store. Sensing that I would hate this magazine, he handed it off to me. Lotto People is a real piece of work. It's important to note that you will find the following disclaimer if you look hard enough:
Lotto People magazine is independently published by Jackpot Productions, LLC and is not affiliated with any state lottery.
So, as much as I would like to, I can't fault DC for publishing this magazine. However, Lotto People certainly highlights exactly who is being targeted by state lotteries.
The May 2006 issue of Lotto People has eleven pictures of people in it. A whopping ten of those pictures are of blacks. The lone non-black is an Arab man who owns a "lucky" convenience store on South Capitol Street, a predominantly black neighborhood.
The magazine offers helpful tips such as "play your numbers twice and win double." Another tip tells lottery players that if your numbers don't come up, then keep playing them. After all, they're more likely to come up in the future. By "helpful tips," I actually mean "worst case scenario of Gambler's Fallacy." These people are being taken for suckers.
Poverty is a problem in Washington; especially poverty within the black community. That's not news to anyone. The DC Lottery isn't helping. This lottery targets a black community that should be putting their cash into savings accounts instead of scratch tickets. We have a city legislature that's mostly black and a black executive...You'd think that someone would take the initiative to protest DC's dependence on these lotteries.
I understand that DC is cash-strapped. Just today The Washington Post had a front-page, above the fold story on DC's out-of-control spending on special education. (Fucking 'tards. Give 'em an inch and they take a mile!) Lottery revenue is helpful, but it's hard to argue that the benefits outweigh the negative consequences of a system that targets DC's gigantic population of poor blacks.
I admit that I have no solution for this problem. But the status quo makes me incredibly uneasy. Would slot machines be a better solution? Maybe. I can't say for sure. The city has found itself in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation where it depends upon lottery money at the cost of its core constituentcy. Every time there's a lottery drawing, DC loses a little bit of its soul.
*Blackjack actually pays out around 99% if played correctly. Unfortunately, and I learned the hard way, that's very hard to do when you're drunk.