Online lottery unwise

Online lottery unwise

July 30th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

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.