The lottery is painful to an unlucky many

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The lottery is painful to an unlucky many

Joshua Alan Sussman, Staff Columnist

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Work behind the counter of a gas station, and you will discover that most people buy what one of my friends has termed “the holy trinity:” cigarettes, alcohol and lottery tickets. People come in and out of the gas station, gripping scratch-offs tightly in their hands, not believing they can win and never seeing so much as a $2 return from their tickets. This doesn’t stop them, though. This doesn’t stop them from buying more. It doesn’t stop them from pouring $20, $40, $80, $100 or more into the tickets and scratch-offs.

This is because it is not about winning; it’s about the possibility of winning, and a certain type of person literally cannot help themselves from trying to do so. Those who work in the gambling industry call them “whales;” I call them victims.

It is on the backs of the poor that the lottery makes its money. It is not the random person buying a ticket or two just for the sake of it or the people who buy a scratch-off for a laugh just to see what happens. It is the poor, desperate individual who simply must play.

Some lottery participants have a certain “addictive” personality type that leaves them predisposed toward over-indulging in gambling and games of chance. They cannot help themselves; they simply must play. They might win, they might get it this time because this time, of course, it will be the one – the one that lets them retire from their jobs and go pursue their real dreams, that lets them finally relax and be free. This time basically never arrives, except for the random (and very, very few) who hit that sweet jackpot. But if these serial lottery players get that rare, small payout, then back into the pot it goes. The lottery is built on the broken dreams of the desperate and the mentally ill, and it is an evil that the government endorses.

The government claims that the lottery helps to pay for a variety of things, like road maintenance and public school system improvements, and that it takes the burden off of normal taxpayers. The amount the lottery makes is minuscule in comparison to normal government budgets, and the “burden” that it relieves taxpayers of is a joke. The money the government makes rarely gets spent on anything worthwhile, all while the government continues to claim that the lottery is good, or at least the very least OK.

The lottery is harmless fun to most, and a black hole to a poor few. It is this latter group – or rather, this group’s wallets – that the lottery squeezes and milks bone dry. It is for this latter, utterly ruined group that the lottery exists. And even if the lottery helped alleviate my taxes, I would not want that to happen because some mentally ill, desperate, poverty-stricken breadwinner caused his family to go hungry because he spent all he had earned on scratchy tickets.