Why I never play the lottery

Dan wrote today about the political manipulation of the poor. Well, no where is this more clear than in state-run lotteries.

I never play because it’s a waste of money. And with five children, I don’t have money to burn.

But some might argue that it’s fun to plunk down a buck or two even for that extremely remote chance of winning. State governments make millions off those irrational aspirations.

What’s the real reason to avoid buying a ticket? The whole state lottery system preys on the poor’s desperate hope for a better life. Joe Carter over at Acton brought this research from Jordan Ballor to my attention. And it truly is disgraceful.

A recently released Gallup survey confirms the fears of many who oppose government-promoted gambling: the poorest among us are contributing much more to lottery revenues than those with higher incomes. The poll found that people who played the lottery with an income of less than $20,000 annually spent an average of $46 per month on lottery tickets. That comes out to more than $550 per year and it is nearly double the amount spent in any other income bracket….

The insidiousness of state lotteries comes with government involvement in the industry. What begins as a well-intentioned plan to provide for the needs of the people – education funding for example – very often becomes just another source of revenue for a voracious state treasury. Lotto revenue is often diverted for new purposes through legislative and bureaucratic chicanery.

The highly promotional nature of state lotteries becomes clear as they bombard us with advertising in every available medium. When jackpots get particularly large, the media blitz becomes a frenzy, as the government-run lotteries attempt to dazzle us into the 21 st century form of “gold fever.” For the Feb. 20, multi-state Mega Millions lottery, Michigan officials tempted players with the promise of “$24,300 per day!” in a press release that described winning the jackpot as “a pretty nice payday.” In this way, state lottery boards and commissions “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15 NIV).

The poorest are spending an average of $46 a month, and to get what? Nothing.

Add state-run lotteries to the list of Things Considered Harmless But Actually Cause Real Harm.



20 thoughts on “Why I never play the lottery

  1. The personal, family reason you cite is a solid reason not to allocate your money in this form of entertainment. The second reason is merely choosing what your poison will not be. There are any number of things that the poorest are spending money on and not getting anything/much in return. (Alcohol, tobacco, taxes, fast food, other entertainment dollars, etc.). It would be impossible to avoid all the things that give hope of a better life to the poor. Not buying a ticket is going to have no visible effect on the amount the poorest spend on the desperate hope.

    1. Joe M says:

      At $46 a month it would easily cover contraception and thus eliminate the supposed need for an HHS mandate. Wouldn’t that be a visible effect?

      Instead of an HHS mandate, Obama could be advocating for the elimination of lotteries in order to fund contraception!

  2. abadilla says:

    I don’t spend more than a dollar or two and my wife buys a ticket only when millions are in play and if I win, fine, if I don’t, I haven’t lost much.
    Joshua, what would you say if I were to win millions with a dollar or two and then give CV a hefty contribution? I can’t imagine you would be unhappy! :-)

    1. Ann Unemori says:

      Amen to that. I like to say that the Luck Gods only give you one chance, and so therefore I only should buy one ticket. Haven’t won anything yet, but haven’t lost much either. Yes, “you can’t win if you don’t play”, but Common Sense never has let me down yet.

      1. abadilla says:

        I haven’t won anything yet either, but if it happens, good, if not, well, I keep on working and trying to live our Catholic faith. Right now my parish has needed repairs I would love to help them with. Some of my nephews are trying to go to college. I would not mind using the money for those purposes either.

  3. What do the poor get? They get better schools for their children, since that is where most of the proceeds from state lotteries ends up.

    1. abadilla says:

      Good point Philip!

      1. Yeah, it’s kind of disappointing that my other comment was censored.

        1. Joe M says:

          I’m not disappointed.

    2. Joe M says:

      If that’s true, where are the “better” schools at? Public schools have been underperforming at an increasing rate, despite receiving increased funding.

      The truth is, the money isn’t going to improve any government services. It’s going to support benefits for government workers that their counterparts in the private sector do not enjoy. Do you need examples?

      1. John Nahas says:

        Yeah joe, teachers that work tirelessly to teach our kids and help them learn the skills they need to survive make too much money. Maybe we should force them to live in poverty and to beg for food scraps on the side of the road when they retire. Would that make you happy?

        1. Joe M says:

          If all teachers are working tirelessly, they must be doing it wrong. Education measures in other countries with far less funding are outperforming ours.

          A more likely reality is that, similar to every other industry, some teachers are good and others are bad. However, the combination of government monopoly and teachers union creates a system where bad teachers are kept on board at the expense of the good teachers.

        2. abadilla says:

          John, I’m a teacher but in a private school. The average public school teacher in Los Angeles earns $69,000.00 a year, not exactly someone who lives or would live in poverty. I can also tell you their pensions are a dream but the education in the public school system is as bad as the economy of this state, California.
          In any case, my wife buys a lottery ticket here and there, we dream, and if it happens, fine, if not, fine too.

      2. abadilla says:

        Glad to see you back! I kept wondering where you were.

        1. Joe M says:

          Thank you. Good to see you as well. I’ve just been trying to increase my focus on work lately. So, haven’t given myself as much extra time to keep up with blogs/news/etc.

          1. abadilla says:

            Well, what was your reaction when you came back and suddenly everything looked peaceful? I simply could not believe my eyes. I never thought the moderators were going to take action.
            The experience left a poor taste in my mouth and I’m still recovering from my lack of charity. I simply lost it, but now I’m able to participate without fear of insults to me or to the Church. We can disagree forcefully yet without insulting each other or demeaning our Catholic faith while at the same time claiming to be Catholic.

          2. Joe M says:

            It was similar on other sites in 2008. So, I figured things would calm down. Also, I’m pretty sure that a large amount of the comments were from 1-2 people who were being paid to do so.

          3. abadilla says:

            Hi. Joe,
            Well I never knew how many there were. Sometimes they seem “legion,” and within seconds of a post, they would come down on the writer like locusts but the most insulting part to me, was when they labeled themselves “Catholic.” That really irritated me. Well, I’m glad we are back on peaceful CV.

    3. abadilla says:

      Philip, I agree but the problem is that the money goes to administrators and rarely to the kids who need it, that’s the problem, at least here in the public school system.
      I’m sorry for the censored message. I think moderators are being a bit jittery. After all, the experience we just went through was not pretty at all. I try to be polite, but I must admit, in those days I lost it too.

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