Letter: Gambling Amounts to a Tax on the Poor

To the Editor:

On March 14, the New Hampshire Senate passed SB 152, calling for construction of a casino, the licensing fees for which Gov. Hassan has included in her proposed budget. Our District 5 senator, David Pierce, voted against the casino. I want to thank Sen. Pierce for his integrity, courage and commitment to a more equitable solution to funding essential state services.

According to a study done in 1999 by the bipartisan National Gambling Impact Commission, 80 percent of gambling revenue comes from households with incomes of less than $50,000 a year. That means, in effect, those with middle to low incomes will be the ones who will pay for education and health care in New Hampshire, a responsibility that should be shared by all New Hampshire citizens. Solving our education and health care funding crisis on the backs of middle- to low-income families is a shameful, short-term fix.

Hundreds of studies show the disproportionate burden of gaming revenue. In Minnesota, my home state, over half the participants in state-run gambling treatment programs had yearly incomes of $20,000 or less. The 32 Colorado counties with the highest per-capita lottery sales all have per-capita income levels below the state average. In New York, those living in the most impoverished areas of the state spent eight times more of their income on lottery tickets than did those living in the most affluent sections. The three poorest counties in New Mexico all rank among the state’s top 10 counties in per-capita lottery sales. A University of Louisville study showed that Kentuckians with annual incomes less than $15,000 spent $9.23 per week on lottery tickets, while those earning above $35,000 spent only $7.36. Research among Maryland’s largest counties reveals that per-capita lottery sales are highest in the state’s poorest county, while the richest county has the lowest per-capita lottery sales.

A casino is not the way to fund those services that are the responsibility of all New Hampshire citizens. Thank you, Sen. Pierce, for remembering that.

Carla Bailey