John Oliver tells the truth about state lotteries

Once again John Oliver (on HBO’s Last Week Tonight) is both very informative and funny. This isn’t his funniest bit (in fact, parts of it are more likely to make you scowl or weep than laugh), but the information is worth a listen, and as unlike a bad documentary it won’t bore the crap out of you. (It’s like eating a mix of fresh, healthy vegetables somehow made to taste like bacon.)


Oliver mentions that the North Carolina lottery was introduced with a promise to provide additional funds for education, while in fact the state spends less today per pupil than it spent before the lottery was adopted. Also, while a percentage of corporate taxes were once by law dedicated to education spending, that’s no longer true and the states corporate taxes are being cut. (So, for that matter, are individual income taxes, with the tax burden shifted from higher-income to lower-income individuals thanks to our now Republican-dominated state legislature.)

But Oliver doesn’t mention that the lottery was passed over more than sufficient opposition in one house of the legislature to block it. Lottery supporters were able to sneak in an unscheduled vote while the opponents were not in the chamber, one of the single most blatant examples of corruption in the state’s legislative history, which is saying something. Having just bad-mouthed the GOP, I should note that the bad guys in that case were Democrats.

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