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Hitting the Lottery Jackpot: Government and the Taxing of Dreams


Paperback, 122 pages
ISBN: 1-58367-014-9
Released: January 2000

Hitting the Lottery Jackpot is a timely critique of the economic and social costs of state reliance on lotteries to generate public revenues. David Nibert highlights the conflicting role of the state as gambling promoter to show who really profits—advertising agencies, TV stations, and ticket vendors—with less than half the money wagered returned as prizes. Hitting the Lottery Jackpot also shows who loses: lower-income groups and people of color, who spend a much higher percentage of their income on lotteries than others.

David Nibert connects the rise of lotteries, illegal in every state before the 1960s, to the economic stagnation beginning in the 1970s, when budgetary crises prompted legislatures to seek new revenues. Difficult economic times produced uncertainty and anxiety for the working class, leading many poor and middle-income people, yearning for security, to throw away huge sums on lotteries they stand almost no chance of winning.

David Nibert also does an exceptional job of providing a broad historical overview of lotteries—from their appearance in 16th century Europe to fund colonialism and expand empire, to their use in generating capital to finance infrastructure development and burgeoning industries in 18th century America. He discusses their decline by the early 19th century and chronicles the political and economic events of the 20th century which led to their subsequent return. Finally, Nibert explores the ideological dimensions of the lottery—the get-rich-quick individualism that is promoted among the very groups who would be better served by political action and solidarity.

Hitting the Lottery Jackpot makes a powerful case against lotteries as a pernicious government tax on the poor, seductively disguised as fun.



1. The Rise of Lottomania

  • The Rebirth of State Lotteries
  • The Evolution of Lottery Games
  • Who Profits from Lotteries?
  • Lottery Culture
  • A Sociological View of Lotteries

2. Lotteries in U.S. History

  • Lottery Troubles in Europe
  • Decline of Lotteries in the U.S.
  • Lotteries in the Twentieth Century
  • Factors Underlying the Legalization of Lotteries
  • Economic Forces and Lottery Activity
  • Why do People Play Lotteries?

3. Lotteries as Questionable State Policy

  • State Advertising of Lottery Products
  • Deceptive Promotion
  • Funds for Education: Robbing Peter to pay Paul
  • Lotteries and Gambling
  • The State
  • A Critical View of the State
  • The State as Protector of Capitalists and Capitalism
  • Who Controls State Governments?

4. State Lotteries and the Legitimation of Inequality

  • The Process of System Legitimation
  • Lotteries as the New Opportunity
  • Lotteries and the Acquisition of Wealth
  • Lotteries as Diversion
  • Lotteries and the Denigration of Work
  • State Lotteries Promote Superstition
  • Postscript

5. A Lotto Obstacles to Change

  • A New War Against the Poor


David Nibert is associate professor of sociology at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, who has published articles in Critical Sociology, Race, Gender and Class, and other publications.

SKU: mrp0149 Categories: ,

Publication Date: September 1999

Number of Pages: 144

Paperback ISBN: 9781583670149