There are millions of reasons why winning a lottery would be fantastic. I do occasionally fantasize about the great things I would do with a big win: pay off my mortgage, make life easier for my kids, donate substantial sums to my church and many worthy causes. But I’ve never bought a ticket and I have no intention of doing so.
One of the reasons state lotteries get established is a promise of funding for important government functions such as education. I’ve always felt this was trickery, in that states have to fund education anyway, and I’ve seen no evidence that our children or teachers actually benefit from lottery income. Those who buy lottery tickets with thoughts of helping educate children are, in my mind, paying taxes twice.
But the biggest reason I stand against the lottery is the tremendous damage that such gambling can do to individuals and families. Clearly it’s the poor who buy the majority of lottery tickets in hopes of a big win to improve their lives. It’s the poor who can’t afford those tickets, yet that ticket represents a thimbleful of hope that is hard to resist. For me, just looking at the odds of winning makes a ticket purchase seem like a waste of money and irresponsible stewardship. And how do we, as a state, justify “improving education” on the backs of the poor?
Jonah Lehrer, a writer for Slate, explores the facts. The money quote:
A household with income under $13,000 spends, on average, $645 a year on lottery tickets, or about 9 percent of all income.