Legislative Actions

Matthew McQueen Is Right: The New Mexico Lottery Needs to Go

I’m generally pretty libertarian. Government should leave people alone.

Whether booze or soda, vaccinations or cigarettes, the Government should not be promoting or prohibiting otherwise legal behaviors of individual citizens.

And I feel the same way about the lottery.


For the same reason I’ve opposed not the legalization of recreational marijuana but the state’s role in its manufacture and distribution, Government should not be in the gambling business.

“It boils down to the fact that we’re funding education through gambling. And the people who are gambling on the lottery are the ones who can least afford it,” McQueen told The Santa Fe New Mexican‘s Milon Simonovich.

He’s right, and he has a friend across the political aisle co-sponsoring a bill to end the state lottery.

Republican Jason C. Harper cited research from Bankrate showing that people making less than $30,000 a year spend 13% of their income on lottery tickets, versus 1% for those making more than $50,000.

Simonovich reports that current law requires 30% of state lottery revenues go to a college scholarship program.

Thirty percent of $143 million a year is about $43 million. The rest goes to administrative costs, advertising, promotions, and staff salaries–including a $220,000 salary for David Barden, CEO of the New Mexico Lottery–“higher than the lottery directors in California, Texas, New York and Florida,” who “operate multibillion-dollar lotteries.” According to The Santa Fe New Mexican, Barden “received a $46,000 raise in 2019.”

In the movie Ides of March, Gov. Mike Morris (played by George Clooney) tells Charlie Rose in an interview that he opposes the death penalty because of what it says about society. Rose asks Morris what he would do if the murder victim were the governor’s own wife.

MORRIS: “Well, if I could get to him I’d find a way to kill him.”

ROSE: “So you would impose the death penalty.”

MORRIS: “No, I would commit a crime for which I would happily go to jail.”

ROSE: “Then why not let society do that?”

MORRIS: “Because society has to be better than the individual.”

Gambling is not murder, and going to school on a scholarship funded by poor people is not the same as having literal blood on your hands. The point is, with a $3.5 billion budget surplus in 2023, funding college scholarships with a meager $43 million from the general fund is not only plausible, but it makes the state lottery an unnecessary exploit of the underclass. Every state lawmaker regardless of ideology should be on board with this bill.

“The state should not be in the business of luring gamblers on the pipe dream that they can get rich through a lottery jackpot,” Simonovich wrote.

Well said, Simonovich.

Well done, McQueen and Harper.

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