Dallas NAACP Wants to Shut Down the Lottery; Odds Measured at 329 Trillion to One

We were kind of amazed to read that the NAACP's Dallas chapter wants to shut down the Texas Lottery, mostly because we didn't realize all the other racial injustices on the To Do list had already been checked off.

"People oftentimes make decisions not in their best interests," Chapter President Juanita Wallace told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last week. "We have to look out for these people."

We wondered how the Houston chapter felt about all this: President Reginald Lillie told us that it's not even an issue that's on their radar.

"That hasn't been anything we've been focusing on," Lillie told us, which took care of that.

Lottery Commission Spokeswoman Kelly Cripe told us in an e-mail that the Commission "remains respectful of, and sensitive to, the viewpoints of Texans who are not in favor of gaming in any form. Since the first ticket was sold in 1992, the Texas Lottery has generated $20 billion in revenue for the state and contributed more than $14 billion to the Foundation School Fund. These are not insignificant numbers."

But Wallace says those billions are earned on the backs of the poor and vulnerable.

"Our people are spending their little money, their life savings away in hopes of winning," she told Dallas/Fort Worth's CBS affiliate.

Taking a cue from Wallace, we looked at the 2011 demographics study prepared for the Commission by the University of Houston's Hobby Center for Public Policy. (The stats are based on a phone survey of 1,697 people who were no doubt reached during dinner. Note: some of the subcategories had very small numbers; for example, the number of people reporting an income under $12,000 was 75.)

Here's some quick 'n' dirty figures for people who said they'd played in the past year:

34.7 percent of the people who said they had less than a high school diploma spent about $25/month on games.

40.5 percent of the people who said they had a high school degree spent about $15/month.

38.5 percent of people who said they had a college degree spent about $10/month.

Looking at race, 39.1 percent of the white people surveyed said they'd played in the past year, spending about $10/month.

43.6 percent of the African-Americans surveyed said they'd played in the past year, spending about $25/month.

44.1 percent who identified as Hispanic said they'd played in the past year, spending about $20/month.

37.5 percent of women surveyed had played in the past year, spending about $15/month.

44.1 percent of dudes surveyed had played in the past year, spending about $12/month.

Most surprising finding: People who earned less than $12,000/year and those who earned more than $100,000 spent the same amount on games: $11 (Also, 25.3 percent of the former income bracket said they'd played in the past year, while 40.6 of the latter said they'd played).

We must admit, we like stupidly throwing our money away on scratch-offs every once in a while, so we might miss the lottery if it were shut down. However, there is almost nothing worse than the incessant radio and TV commercials for the freaking lottery, so if shutting it down meant an end to that torture, then we might be all for it. Either that, or drastically overhaul the commercials to show a more realistic portrayal of the act of buying a ticket; or, even better, the act of being stuck behind some old person in a convenience store while they try to figure out what colorful batch of losing tickets to blow some of their Social Security stipend on. No choreography, no jingles, just some idiot throwing his money away. That's a commercial we'd look forward to!

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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow