Who says there is no good economic news — did you see this? Revenue from the sale of state lottery tickets increased 1 percent last year. Yeah, I know ... doesn’t sound like much. But it meant an additional $31 million in ticket sales — nothing to sneeze out — and it means lottery sales are now at a record $2.64 billion. (Of that, $1.54 billion is paid in prizes, leaving $930 million for the state budget after overhead.)

State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff was near ecstatic, or at least as ecstatic as treasurers get: “These fiscal year 2011 revenues are a new record in lottery contributions, and a welcome one,” he said.

And Trenton is banking on an even bigger increase next year. The current budget projects that lottery revenue will increase by $100 million.

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That sounds like one of those ridiculously high revenue projections that politicians use to prop up state budgets. But the truth, of course, is that any increase in lottery sales is good economic news only in the most limited sense. The lottery is really a tax on the poor and the stupid, and people are so poor these days (stupid is never in short supply) that they are playing the lottery like mad.

Probably to get money for dinner. Or, worse, instead of dinner.

And that’s not really great economic news.

Sure, it would be nice — again, in a limited way — if state lottery revenue increased another $100 million this year. As my dad liked to say, “Rich or poor, it’s nice to have money.”

But really, lottery sales are up so much only because the economy is down so much. And all these lottery players would be better off going to Atlantic City’s struggling casinos. The odds are better there. And they might at least get a free drink from a cute cocktail waitress.


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