Times Argus | January 7, 2016

January 07, 2016

Data suggest more lottery buyers are low income

Data released by the Vermont Lottery Commission suggests a link between high lottery ticket sales and areas with higher-than-average poverty levels.

In Vermont, however, people cannot use food stamps to purchase lottery tickets, and according to Chris Curtis, an attorney for Vermont Legal Aid, if a low-income person actually does win money, they could lose their benefits.

 “Vermont benefit programs have very restrictive asset limitations,” said Curtis. He said if a sum is considered large enough and is treated as income, that will knock someone off the program. An applicant has to have less than $2,000 to be eligible.

“Two thousand dollars is the limit for food stamps and for the Reach Up program. That’s not enough nowadays for a down payment for a first month’s rent and security deposit,” said Curtis. Once the asset is brought back down to under $2,000, the person can re-apply for the benefits.

Curtis said that overall the lottery is a bad bet for low-income Vermonters.

“Very low-income people and people living in poverty appear to be being fleeced by the lottery system,” he said. “It does put a disproportionate burden on low-income folks who are unlikely to see any return from the lottery at all.”