In my mailbox the other day was a coupon for the Ohio Lottery. To use it, you have to take it to an authorized Lottery Retailer to receive $1, $2, or $5 off an instant scratch off ticket. There is also the chance to win $500 instantly.
I think this raises a distinct ethical question: Should states send out lottery coupons through the postal service or any other means?
The lottery is like most casino games. It is guaranteed to favor the house over the long term. Some people will hit it big and others will consistently lose a lot of money. The various lottery commissions heavily publicize winners, but never tell stories about people who play for years and lose (unless they were one of the heavily publicized winners who “played for years and years and never won a thing, but they had faith that one day they would!”).
The numbers don’t lie; the odds are stacked against the lottery players. So should states, which hold the public’s trust, give people discounts to play a game designed for them to lose money over the long run?
If someone wants to play the lottery, that is their business. Sometimes I will even buy a lottery ticket when the jackpot gets large enough. But I am not convinced states should give out coupons for something that is mathematically impossible to win over the long term.
Other coupons I am not fond of: Tobacco products.