Monday, November 2, 2015

Lottery tickets

     I'm old enough to remember when gambling was illegal.   The only lottery available was the Irish Sweepstakes, based on a horse race in Ireland.   You had to know somebody, who knew somebody to be able to purchase a ticket.  It all seemed deliciously semi-illegal.  The winnings were something around $135,000, an enormous sum in those days.  We could while away some hours, planning the best use from homes to cars to vacations to renovations.   

     While the goals for the funds have remained static, the methods of potentially obtaining them have not.    At some point the governments realized that gambling could be  a source of revenue for them.   What had previously been the purview of religious and charitable organizations could increase government coffers.  No more poker parties in someone's garage or surreptitiously purchased tickets;  casinos, on-line poker, bingo and lottery tickets became an important adjunct to government coffers.   Occasional trips to Las Vegas became weekly bus trips to the local slot machine heaven.

     I've read that your chance of winning a lottery ticket is as likely as being eaten by a shark or struck by lightning, fates I would prefer to avoid.  Some people seem to mess up no matter what.  But, as the ads state, someone has to win and you can't win if you don't play.  I've also read that a substantial percentage of people figure winning the lottery into their retirement plans.  The financial community has rebutted this, demonstrating calculations that indicate that the same $5 a week you invest in lottery tickets could provide you with a substantial windfall of your own after 20 years or so.

     My father used to buy a one dollar ticket twice a week on the federal lottery.   But at least he did it thoughtfully.   When the jackpot exceeded a pre-determined amount, he would refrain from buying a ticket.    His reasoning was that while a million or two could be divvied up and spent thoughtfully, $20 million would change things too much.   I don't know if he thought his children would end up lounging  their lives away on a tropical beach or in a downtown flophouse in a drug induced stupor.   Probably not that extreme.   More likely, he knew that too much money could be as much of a problem as too little.

     I related this to my daughter, who was delighted to offer a quote she had heard:  "I know money can't buy happiness, but it will do until happiness comes along."   I think she was only teasing!

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