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Raises concerns about negative impacts of gambling

Vox Pop

In the paper last week, there was a happily titled article ‘Wisconsin homeowners receive holiday gift from the lottery’. It was a light, fluffy article seeming to celebrate the many benefits that we all receive from this wonderful program. Isn’t it great that ‘strong sales’ helped to continue to help Wisconsin taxpayers?

Ultimately, the answer is no. Gambling is a major issue in Wisconsin and an addictive pattern that can ruin lives. Lottery tickets have been aggressively marketed and sold in low income communities in our state, a known tactic to increase sales that pulls needed money out of people’s pockets. Many of these people are not homeowners, and therefore do not receive the benefit of the tax break.

In the end, when the negatives of lotteries are brought up, the comeback is always ‘people will gamble anyways so let’s collect the tax revenue’. Although that is partially true -from the $2 crossword scratch off games, to sports betting, March Madness brackets, and raffles at local fundraisers, gambling is all around us and many of us play. But that also ignores that the Wisconsin Lottery is Wisconsin Residents (us) sponsoring the use of predatory marketing practices to try to increase sales of lottery tickets with full knowledge of the personal and community costs of gambling. As a State, we actively promote buying of lottery tickets, intentionally targeting low income, susceptible communities, and selling the premise as ‘good’ for all. The lottery costs us and our communities, celebrates people spending money that is needed elsewhere, and increases the need for other social services. Somehow I don’t think the advertised $200 property tax credit holiday gift is an overall gain for me.

My goal is not to end gambling - I will still get a few crossword scratch offs this year and you will find me purchasing a few tickets at the next 50/50 raffle at a local event. Some people get a lot of genuine enjoyment from various different forms of gambling and know how to participate responsibly. But I don’t think we should as a State support, market, celebrate even, an activity that is knowingly costly to our community. If we feel like this tax break is appropriate and necessary, then we should pass legislation instead of depending on people to gamble for it.

— Ben Koch, Medford