Friday, July 21, 2006

A Real Chance of Winning Big... NOT!

I saw a commercial the other day. I wasn't paying particular attention to it--just your usual lottery commercial--at least until it claimed that you have a "real" chance of winning.

Really? Has there ever been a single lottery that gives people a "real" chance of winning? Aren't they designed to suck money out of your pocket faster than Las Vegas? Just because there are $26 million up for grabs doesn't mean the cost of 'winning' it is substantially more than that.

Besides giving people a false sense of hope, I have a special bone to pick on state lotteries. They're the absolute worst form of gambling--the largest state-sponsered fraud of all time. Las Vegas has payback ratios in excess of 95%. You see the ads all the time about the 'loosest slots' and even some with payback ratios of 98%. So for every one dollar you gamble, you'll likely get back 98 cents. The casinos still have the odds stacked in their favor, but they cash in when you go back and bet the 98 cents, then come out with 96 cents. Then try your luck again with 96 cents and come back with 94 cents. And so forth.

Those state lotteries, though--those are the worst. They typically payback about 50% of what you bet. Your odds of winning are significantly better by going to Las Vegas and doing your gambling there. Think about that. Those magnificent casinos were built off of the common man's gambling losses.

The worst part about state lotteries isn't the lousy payouts, though. No, the absolute worst part is that because so many states have become so reliant on the income lotteries generate, they actually encourage their citizens to play. A tax on stupid people, as it's called. Our state governments, which should be protecting us, are doing everything in their power to destroy the fiscal responsibilities of their constituents. They have lots of convincing reasons to throw your money out the window.

For instance, proceeds from the lottery help fund schools. It helps justify the state raping you. "Yeah, they took all my money, but at least it's going towards a good cause!" You know what happens when you take money from the lottery and give it to schools? Schools become very dependent on that money. The state may not fund the schools as much from general tax revenue--and why should they? The lottery is paying for it! Net gain for the schools: Absolutely nothing. When you hear about all this money the lottery provides for schools, ask yourself: Why have so many of them sold out to Coke or Pepsi? Why have so many of them started selling food from Pizza Hut and other fast-food locations? They aren't doing it "for the kids." They're doing it for the money. That such a terrible conflict of interest would be allowed to exist is astounding.

Now I'm not really qualified to say if schools are getting their fair share of money or not--I don't have kids nor is the total amount of money going to schools my beef--but rather, if we want to fund schools, I'd rather it come from the general tax revenue instead of putting schools into the awkward situation of promoting other businesses (lottery, fast food, or anything else for that matter) that, in the long run, can have an extraordinarily bad influence on the kids its supposed to be helping.

Lotteries are a terribly inefficient way to collect taxes. Satistically, it's the poorest people who fall for it--the very people who can least afford it. What would you do if a politician comes up for reelection after promoting a tax on the poorest of the poor?

Just say no to lotteries!

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