Walking through Portland airport recently, the Antiplanner noticed a sign from the Oregon Lottery claiming that 97 cents of every dollar paid for lottery tickets was “returned to Oregon.” As the Lottery’s web site says, “97 cents of every dollar played comes back to Oregon . . . money that goes to jobs, schools, parks and watersheds.”
That number sounded suspicious to me. If 97 cents is kept by the state, and no doubt some additional is used for administering the lotteries, where do they get the money to pay out lottery winners?
I didn’t have time to investigate, but the Oregonian did. It found that the lottery sold $9.8 billion worth of tickets in 2011. About 3 percent went for expenses, $550 million went to the state, and the rest went to prizes. So when the Lottery say 97 percent goes to the state, it includes the prize money, something not mentioned in the ad (and, as the Oregonian says, “winnings donâ€™t necessarily stay here”). In fact, only about 5.5 percent goes for “jobs, schools, parks and watersheds.”
The Oregonian says this is “disingenuous.” The Antiplanner calls it lying, also known as government on an ordinary day.