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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No Sin in the Lottery Dollars

Last year, amid fireworks over the beer tax, the pro-hike camp liked to make a lot of hay about the evils of drink. If you'll recall, they attributed to beer enormous human wreckage: teenage drunken driving, addiction, even the scourge of meth and child abuse. Why do you suppose it is, then, that the state is now encouraging bars to keep their share of lottery profits?
Director Dale Penn said cutting gambling commissions would be "too risky" for the Lottery and the bars and taverns that offer video gambling. He said Oregon's ailing economy and loss of business to bars by the state's smoking ban have taken a toll on gambling sales.

If too many bars and taverns go out of business, he said, the lottery would have fewer places for people to gamble.

"Increasing overall sales is the method to maximize revenue for state programs," Penn wrote. "To do so requires a strong retailer network, not a reduced fragmented group."
And if they can't gamble, the state loses lottery revenues--a significant source of revenue for a state with a patchwork Frankenstein's monster of a funding system. I'm not opposed to lottery revenues--it's a voluntary expense and means we don't have to raise taxes or cut spending elsewhere. But there's no way to argue that this doesn't encourage all the evils the beer tax was puportedly designed to reduce.

So which is it, Oregon: is beer so sinful and harmful it should be taxed heavily, or is it an important part of the state's wholesome revenue streams? You can't have it both ways: either you're mucking around the sinful swamp with the beer drinkers, or you're standing on dry, high moral ground eschewing all that dirty money.

1 comment:

  1. I seem to recall the share of lottery profits for retailers (mostly video poker and the like) were reduced a while back, with little or no effect to bars and taverns ability to stay in business. This is getting traction now due to economic circumstances, but it's still BS. As for your comparison, you nailed it!