published Monday, July 30th, 2012

Online lottery unwise

Lotteries in Tennessee, Georgia and other states are unlikely to go away, now that the states are addicted to the supposedly "free" revenue that the games generate for public education and other purposes.

But lotteries still represent a government tax on dopes who can't do math. And it's particularly discouraging when they lotteries are expanded to take in even more suckers than they already attract.

In Georgia, lottery tickets will soon be available for online purchase. And it is both surprising and disappointing to learn that Gov. Nathan Deal views online lottery ticket sales as a worthwhile way to get younger and younger Georgians to start playing.

Deal, a conservative who generally opposes the expansion of gambling, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the online sales are "a useful area to explore."

Useful in what way, you ask?

The governor helpfully elaborates: "It does open the participation up to a generation of younger citizens of our state who might not take the time to go to a store to physically purchase a ticket."

And why, exactly, is it a bad thing that young Georgians are less apt to drive to a store to squander their already limited dollars on lottery tickets? It would be smarter if the state of Georgia were encouraging young people to save up for college or perhaps for a home purchase or just for a rainy day, rather than smoothing the path for them to throw their money away on the lottery.

After all, is no one in a position of authority in Georgia paying attention to the current economy? Do the state's leaders not realize that this is the worst possible time to be urging people who may be employed today and jobless tomorrow to blow their money that way?

Yet the hyper-convenient stupidity doesn't stop with the new online ticket sales.

Lottery officials in Georgia also have given their OK for a new debit card that is usable for either lottery or retail transactions. The cynically — almost mockingly — named "iHOPE" card "will allow customers to preload funds, buy tickets and have their winnings automatically downloaded into the card's account," The Associated Press reported. That will make it even more likely that lottery winners will plow their winnings back into the lottery rather than make some productive use of the money.

Not that most people are net winners when they play the lottery anyway. The whole thing would collapse if it had to pay out more than it took in. It is designed to create losers — and plenty of them.

Online sales will help Georgia reach players who are Internet-savvy, Georgia Lottery Board Chairman Jimmy Braswell said.

They may be Internet-savvy, but if they're pumping their money into the lottery, they're not the least bit financially literate.

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The lottery is a means convincing people to pay money for a benefit they may not receive by combining it with a direct reward that trumps their costs while it's really the ancillary benefit that truly matters.

It is certainly a perilous path to walk. But you have to remember that the reason most people are willing to gamble is that they're putting relatively little into it compared to the reward. The compulsive addicts who toss their finances away are the exception, not the rule. I suppose it's easier to dismiss them as dopes though.

Of course there was the group that managed to exploit a lottery payout system with substantial investments that enabled them to game the system, but that's another story.

July 30, 2012 at 12:17 a.m.
raygunz said...

Leave people alone! Get your nose out of other people's business! If I want to wager ANY or ALL of MY money on the lottery or any other form of betting,it's NONE of your business!!

July 30, 2012 at 1:30 a.m.
conservative said...

"But lotteries still represent a government tax on dopes who can't do math"

Great line and very true.

No one receiving other people's money in the form of food stamps, tuition assistance, medical care, subsidized rent, etc should be allowed to buy lottery tickets, period.

Those who buy online could be tracted and then removed from any government assisted program.

July 30, 2012 at 7:28 a.m.
EaTn said...

Looks like this topic is a middle ground between right and left: the lottery is both a tax on those who can least afford it plus its a long shot for the gullible gambler. This is our state's alternative to the pitfall shortages of the sales and Hall taxes.

July 30, 2012 at 8:48 a.m.
Easy123 said...

Conservative,

"No one receiving other people's money in the form of food stamps, tuition assistance, medical care, subsidized rent, etc should be allowed to buy lottery tickets, period.

Those who buy online could be tracted and then removed from any government assisted program."

Jesus would be so ashamed, Conservatard.

July 30, 2012 at 10:19 a.m.

More government oversight and supervision! What an idea! Why just think of the jobs that will have to be put into place for that kind of monitoring.

But can you folks imagine if all taxes were like the lottery? You could choose to pay more, and get a higher chance of a payout directly to yourself. It'd be the voluntary dream of the libertarians, wouldn't it?

July 30, 2012 at 10:46 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

I have mixed feelings about the lottery. I seldom buy a ticket but when I buy one and I lose (and I always lose) at least I console myself by knowing that my money is ultimately going for a good thing. Still, it's a sad sight to see so many seemingly destitute people in the convenience stores spending 10, 20, or even more dollars every week on lottery tickets, hanging their hopes so despearately on that one-in-a-bazillion payout.

I've often wondered why the lottery has to have one humongous payout, all for one winner. It seems ridiclous to me to have one person winning an obscenely large amount of money. Instead of having just one winner of, say, $200 million or whatever, why couldn't they have 200 separate drawings and pay out a million each to 200 different people? That way, there would be a lot more winners, and more money being circulated in the economy. But I guess that's just my liberal mind at work. I'm sure the righties would squawk about that - too much like socialism, where more people are able to enjoy the wealth and the bounty.

July 30, 2012 at 12:25 p.m.

Massachusett's Cash Win Fall tried something like that, but unfortunately some people managed to exploit it.

July 30, 2012 at 2:35 p.m.
John_Proctor said...

Given the current state of our economy and how it got there, I have more faith in an honestly run state lottery than the entire United States banking system. If I lose a dollar in the Mega Million, it's on me. J.P. Morgan urinates away billions and that's on me too and everyone else who has to bail out those Wall Streeters who are too big to fail. At least those poor old upper management executives got their bonuses and for that the rest of us are grateful.

As Jeff Foxsworthy said, "You might be a redneck if your retirement planning includes lottery tickets" or something to that effect.

July 30, 2012 at 9:10 p.m.
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