Lottery With Your Latte

There was an article on Arts Professional UK a couple weeks ago that presented an intriguing idea–the use of receipt lotteries to fund arts & education.

Receipt lotteries started in Taiwan in 1951 as a way to prevent under reporting of sale tax collections. Basically, every sales receipt you receive has a series of numbers printed on it. Every couple months, they have a drawing to determine a winner. A number of other countries have set up similar arrangements.

However, it doesn’t have to be done every couple months. Things could be set up so that there was a drawing for smaller prizes every Saturday and you just needed to go online to check if you won something.

There are many benefits of this. First, there isn’t a concern about gambling or that that lower income people are targeted for participation if everyone is entered when they buy groceries or go see a football game. So if your state arts and education funding comes from the lottery, you may feel less discomfort about benefiting from a problematic situation.

Second, it encourages loyalty to retailers that offer the lottery numbers on their receipts. This can be a boon for states who are concerned that online retailers are not remitting sales tax properly. If consumers prefer to buy their products from an online business that provide them a good chance to win $200 at the end of the week, retailers have an incentive to register, and therefore remit taxes, with each state.

Obviously it would be good to have a handful of lottery services that states used in common rather than requiring retailers to register individually with the 40 or so states that have sales taxes of some sort. Most places who use receipt lotteries have seen an increase in sales tax revenue.

I believe I read that in Taiwan, if you aren’t interested in participating in the lottery, there are collection boxes in to which you can drop your receipt and they will be given to charities.

Obviously, the biggest flaw in this sort of arrangement is that in times like these when no one is buying anything, then the funding available to arts and education drops to nearly nothing. But it is highly likely very little money is going to be allocated to the arts by state governments through the usual legislative process anyway.

The other problem, like with most lotteries, is that there is no guarantee the state government won’t divert the revenue being set aside for arts and education to some other cause on a regular basis either.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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