Vice Squad
Thursday, December 27, 2007
New York Times on Vice Policy

A friend of Vice Squad brings our attention to yesterday's and today's business sections in the New York Times. Yesterday, Times economics writer David Leonhardt called for higher taxes on beer and wine. Today, we learn about the state of Texas's intention to introduce a $50 scratch-off lottery ticket, on the heels of other high-priced varieties that cost up to $30 each. The articles share a certain affinity for Vice Squad-style policy directions -- higher alcohol taxes and concerns about the under-regulation of gambling being venerable Vice Squad topics -- but more importantly, they share a reliance upon the ideas of friend of Vice Squad Phil Cook. Phil is both source and part-subject for the alcohol tax article, and his recent alcohol-policy tome, Paying the Tab, is described as "a wonderful little book". (Little? OK, the text per se is "only" about 200 pages, but I never viewed the book as little in terms of length or depth.) For the lottery article, Phil gets a reduced role of providing a short quote.

The lottery article notes that "traditional" lotto has been declining in popularity in Texas -- a "problem" that besets many state lotteries. Further, it provides some demographic statistics on lottery players, with yet more evidence that poorer people tend to spend more money, in absolute terms, on the lottery than do richer individuals:
In 2006, according to a University of North Texas survey commissioned by
state lottery officials, the typical black player spent $70 a month on the
lottery, compared with $47 for Hispanics and $20 for whites.

The demographic differences were especially sharp when it came to
scratch-offs. Players with a high school degree or less typically buy $20 a
month worth of scratch-off tickets, compared with $10 for college graduates. Similarly, players with an annual income of less than $12,000 spent 33 percent more a month than those with incomes above $100,000.

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