Comedian John Oliver dismantled the feel-good message of state lotteries on Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight” to reveal that there’s nothing behind their products but a bunch of BS.
Americans spent $68 billion playing the lottery last year, which the HBO host pointed out is more than they spent on movie tickets, music, porn, the NFL, Major League Baseball and video games put together.
“Americans basically spent more on the lottery than they did on America,” Oliver said.
State lotteries generate so much business because, as Oliver put it, they’re selling “hope.” Attractive advertisements tell lottery ticket buyers that the money they’re blowing will go to schoolchildren and, if they are the lucky one in 176,000,000 that actually hits the jackpot, they can then use that prize money to start a college fund for their children and grandchildren.
But Oliver revealed that even the lottery’s ostensible purpose, to generate revenue for education, is a big inflated lie — the lottery provided no additional funding for education in 21 out of the 24 states that dedicate those funds.
“As math students in one of those states would put it: ‘That is nearly 50 percent!'” Oliver said.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.