Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lottery a sucker game, regardless of how big the jackpot gets to be

By the time you read this, there’s a very good chance that one (or maybe several) people will have matched the right numbers to claim a Mega Millions prize that will be one of the largest – if not THE largest – ever.

Way too many people paid attention to a ritual similar to this to see if they were suddenly multi-millionaires
The drawing was Tuesday night for a prize of $636 million, or perhaps higher if it managed to grow in the final hours between when this commentary was written and when the drawing occurred.

WITH THE LARGEST lottery prize ever being $656 million (nearly two years ago, and split between winners in rural Redbud, along with Kansas and Maryland), this could turn out to be a big deal for somebody.

I would expect the number of players for this week’s drawing will be so many that so many different combinations of numbers will be played on tickets that it will be impossible for no one to manage to win the big prize.

So I’ll issue my premature congratulations to whoever does manage to come up with the winning combination, and will say I hope that having all that money doesn’t manage to screw up their lives by creating complications that us poorer folk can’t even envision.

As for me, I’m not going to have to worry about that. I could use the money. I have debts that need to be paid.

BUT A PART of me never fails to be amazed whenever I go to a gas station and get stuck waiting in a line because somebody ahead of me feels compelled to put down $50 or so in order to buy all kinds of variations of lottery tickets – in hopes of gaining their “fortune” in a single swoop.

Or perhaps that’s single scratch. As in digging out that penny to scratch off the coating that covers up the numbers to reveal whether or not they “won” anything. As though the person who blows half a sawbuck on lottery tickets thinks they’re successful because one of those tickets manages to win a $5 prize!

Maybe it would turn out like those employees of a bakery in suburban Chicago Heights who won a significant lottery prize early this year – only to have all kinds of people try to glom on (or were they wrongly cheated out of a chance to play?) so that it will be years before anybody gets any money remaining after legal fees are paid.

Then again, I’m also the type who just doesn’t get the appeal of the casinos in places like East Chicago, Ind., Joliet or Elgin – to name a few. And even if you think this an elitist thought, I think Chicago can do better than attracting a casino to within its boundaries.

Somebody's prize? Or criminal evidence!
I DON’T HAVE any moralistic qualms about gambling – I’m all for letting people decide what to do with their own money. I just don’t get the appeal of banking it all on a chance to “win” a fortune.

Particularly since when, if you think about it, there really is no difference between the modern-day lottery and the numbers racket of old – except that the only time the latter ever made it into the news was when self-righteous types felt compelled to make some sort of police raid under the guise of protecting the public from the scourge of gambling.

Personally, I have only once played a lottery game – several decades ago, because an editor of mine came up with a unique gag gift for the Christmas holiday. He gave us all “a hope and a prayer,” as in a single lottery ticket AND a plastic, glow-in-the-dark rosary.

I didn’t win anything from that ticket, but I actually still have that rosary (which glows a real sickly shade of green) and consider it a trinket of great significance because of its personal tie to that editor.

MORE IMPORTANT THAN if I had actually won a few bucks from that ticket.

So I haven’t rushed out to claim a share of Mega Millions in some fantasy that I could quit all forms of work and turn this weblog into a rambling account of my globe-trotting activities.

Because I suspect it would turn out to be more likely that I – and many millions of other individuals who likely now are disappointed with their losses – would wind up more like an individual who attended a recent holiday party I attended Sunday.

There was a gift grab bag in which we all contributed an item, then picked a present at random. This person picked nearly $50 worth of instant game tickets.

At least I'll know what day it is
IT WAS ALMOST humorous as she then spent the next 20 or so minutes diligently scratching off her cards to figure out what she won – she wound up winning nothing! They were all losers.

Somehow, I sense the calendar (decorated with photographs by Ansel Adams) I got out of the deal will be more worthwhile.


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