A math professor would like to explain how lotteries don’t benefit schools in the long run. In a study of how lotteries affected state spending on education, he and a political science professor (Who says there’s no connection between math and social studies?) looked at how the amounts of money spent per capita on education changed in the years after lotteries were enacted.

In the first year of lottery income the per capita spending on education in most states when up sharply. However, in the years after, the amount steadily declined despite continued increases in lottery revenue. Eventually education spending was at about the same level as it would have been without lottery funds.

Why does this happen? These are politicians we’re dealing with so it’s not hard to understand.

The problem is not that lotteries are going belly up. In most states, lottery-generated revenue has continued to grow. But the politicians couldn’t resist using lottery funds to replace rather than add to existing sources of education funding. Governors and legislators then used money that once had been earmarked for education on tax cuts, new programs or debt reduction – but not for schools.

The same thing is probably happening with the growth of casino gaming and slot machines in many states. Supporters of state-sponsored gambling defend the games as "entertainment" while they are little more than a way to get people – usually the ones who can least afford it – to willingly pay more taxes. The bottom line is that this is a poor way to pay for education, not to mention any other part of government services.