The Arizona Republic ran a front page article highlighting the surge in lottery ticket sales. According to the article, in FY2011, the state sold $584 million worth of tickets – the most ever.

In this downtrodden economy, one might surmise that the spike in sales is due to the spike in financial desperation. It’s unfortunate, since lotteries are among the highest-taxed activities in the country. It’s also a hidden tax. It’s also a regressive tax, since it hits lower income people disproportionally harder. If the poor want to gamble, that’s fine with me, but the state shouldn’t be sponsoring, advertising, enticing, and acting as the culprit in the activity.

The tax on a lottery ticket is about 24%. Where is that advertised?

But even worse than hiding the tax is the aggressiveness of state government to get people to play (and pay). The advertising budget for the state lottery is $15 million.

Lottery Executive Director Jeff Hatch-Miller:

“Even though there was a recession and times were tough, that meant for us that the state needed that money even more.” (The heck with the people who might have needed it.)

“When times are tough, people need a good rate of return if they’re going to play the game. It’s better (for the state) that they play the game – even though (the state) gets a slightly smaller percentage – than they don’t play it at all.”

From the Republic article:

But state officials say the Arizona government needs the revenue it gets from Lottery sales even more in an era of budget cuts. They point to the changes made to make the games more enticing to players, such as improving odds of winning, selling new kinds of games and improving displays. (My emphasis.)

The changes were especially important in the face of a weak economy that has consumers cutting their spending. (My emphasis.)

“We knew we would have to act to counteract the recession, especially in Arizona,” Executive Director Jeff Hatch-Miller said. “We knew we had to really get out there and start listening more clearly to the players.”

So Hatch-Miller used the power of the state to “counteract” a declining interest in gambling during a recession. Is this really the role of state government?