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Archive for the ‘The Lottery and greed’ Category

The Camera’s Dec. 19 headline couldn’t be missed: “Winner hits $5.3M Lotto.” Though most players checked their numbers, I see a real need all lottery players check their motivations for playing.

It helps to ease the greed question when the proceeds from the Colorado Lottery — Powerball, Lotto, Cash 5 and Scratch Games — go to good places. Nearly $2 billion has been returned to the state for parks, recreation, open space, conservation education and wildlife projects since the lottery started in 1983, according to the lottery’s Web site.

Nevertheless, if the main motivation for playing lotteries is to give to worthy causes, wouldn’t voters support taxes to pay for them? Not if the motivation is greed.

We’re not talking corporate Wall Street greed. We’re talking neighbor winning big at the expense of another neighbor. It took lots of zeros, or rather non-winners, to net the one big winner.

Granted, it’s no crime to advertise heavily, even in poor areas. It gives everyone a chance to win, though that chance is about the same as being struck by lightning on a winter’s day. The actual odds were 1 in 5,245,786, said Erika Gonzales, the lottery spokeswoman.

There’s the beginning of the greed ripoff.

But to ease that thought, it might help to say people have the right to spend their money any way they like. Lotteries are entertainment. With a dollar or more, anyone can be in the game. Add to that worthy causes and the incentive balance tips for many. Dreamers and gambling addicts see it’s only a matter of time before they win big.

Stories like Kim Haggerty’s help there. Seventeen years ago when she was 23-year-old Kim Walker, she won the state’s biggest jackpot of $27 million with a ticket purchased in Boulder. She now lives in Steamboat with her husband and three children where she does what she wants. She teaches ice skating and runs the ice skating club.

When I was a CU student, one professor in class suggested lotteries are really an unfairly administered “tax” and questioned whether the poor were disproportionately paying.

Good points. How many stories about winners say the person is already a multi-millionaire? None I can think of.

However, the New Mexico Lottery Web site clarified that middle income Americans were the most likely group to play the lottery and the wealthiest and the poorest were the least likely. It also said lotteries are not true taxes as no one is forced to play and there are no legal ramifications.

Still, if the causes are worthy, they should be shouldered by more than the middle class.

I have serious concerns that lotteries, a form of gambling, go beyond promoting greed. They weaken the work ethic. Work is the foundation of our nation’s prosperity. By the luring message of getting something for nothing, the basis of prosperity gets changed to luck.

You can put in very little and can receive over a thousand times in return. If prosperity isn’t based on work, gambling encourages idleness with all of its resulting bad effects. Among those bad effects are an addiction to gambling, wasting time and neglecting family and work, and diminishing sensitive feelings.

Of course, one-time ticket buying isn’t going to change all that. And, well-respected and employed individuals play lotteries. But the effect comes in increments. The first ticket sets players’ feet on the path.

Then in these difficult economic times, players are more likely than non-players to rationalize that while buying one ticket was good, buying many would be better. The big jackpot can cause a frenzy where they play more money than they can afford to lose. And, for a small number, the result is a gambling addiction.

Frankly, a tax for all would be a lot better all around than lotteries.


Source: Daily Camera Dec. 28, 2008


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