Obama Says ‘No’ to Mega Millions With Lottery Skepticism
(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is not tempted to buy a Mega Millions ticket, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Thursday. And a newly resurfaced archival video of Obama from 2000 might help explain why.
Appearing on the public TV program Chicago Tonight, then-State Sen. Obama argued that the lottery is not a good way to spend money, especially for the poor.
“One of the concerns that I have, obviously, is that a disproportionate number of people who consistently buy lottery tickets tend to be lower-income and working-class people who can least afford it,” he said. “Even if they’re not compulsive gamblers, they are probably spending money that they don’t necessarily have.”
Obama also suggested that state lotteries’ marketing practices made them complicit in fleecing the low-income crowd.
“Now, we might say that this is their entertainment dollar the same way that somebody else has entertainment dollar and spends it on a movie,” he said. “But I think the fact that the state systematically targets what we know to be lower income persons as a way of raising revenue is troublesome.
“I would argue that if you look at it as a whole, in most states across the board, this tends to be a form of regressive taxation, and I don’t think it’s necessarily the fairest way for us to raise revenue for us in the state,” he said.
The video was obtained and circulated online by the website BuzzFeed.
While Obama might personally oppose state lotteries and their marketing style, his re-election campaign has embraced games of chance to draw in grassroots supporters.
The campaign regularly appeals for donations of $3 or more to be “automatically entered” for a chance to win dinner with Barack and Michelle. (The fine print says no purchase, payment or contribution are necessary to enter to win, however.)
And during the televised Republican primary debates, the campaign promoted a Vegas-style debate watch game that charged supporters’ credit cards an incremental, predetermined amount each time the candidates said a selected phrase, like “Obamacare,” “9-9-9,” “socialism” or “fence.” Participation offered something of a gamble, although supporters could put a cap on the total they’d have to pay out.
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