The Dirty Dozen: 12 States That Bet Big on Sin

By Nikhil Hutheesing - 2013-06-26T17:36:00Z

Photograph by David Moore/Gallery Stock

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Sinful Revenue

Among tax levies, so-called sin taxes are among the most controversial. Critics argue that adding costs to alcohol, cigarettes, betting on ponies and the like unfairly hurts lower-income people. Proponents say the taxes promote health -- making cigarettes more expensive, for example, thus reducing smoking -- a consequence that seems true, according to many studies. States say they put the revenue to good use, for schools and health-care services.

Here are the dozen states with the greatest percentage of total tax revenue derived from “sin” ranked from least to most. In many cases, the least sinful states (i.e., those with the lowest sin taxes) become meccas for fallen shoppers.

Sin taxes include tax revenue from tobacco, alcohol and pari-mutuels (or betting, usually on horse racing, dog racing and jai-alai) provided by the State Government Tax Collections survey of the U.S. Census Bureau. The survey does not include taxes from gambling, prostitution (where legal) and other vices because state governments account for such tax revenue in multiple ways, according to the Census Bureau. Data initially compiled by Bloomberg Rankings and can be viewed here