Why I Didn’t Buy a Lottery Ticket (And Won’t)

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1.5 billion dollars, the highest Powerball lottery jackpot we’ve ever seen, has finally been won. It got a lot of publicity and because the amount kept rising, it seems almost everyone bought a ticket. Except me.

Now I want to say this isn’t to bash anyone who bought a ticket. I understand that many people at this point are doing it for fun. But if I am being honest, all of the excitement and publicity that the lottery is getting I believe is a bad thing.

Growing up I often played poker with my friends, and even if our buy-ins were always very low, that is still technically gambling. This year the fantasy football league I was in had a $60 buy-in. So am I a hypocrite for being against the lottery? In my opinion- no.

I’ll explain why. Low stakes gambling can be a form of entertainment (though I know it isn’t always), just like going to a movie or going bowling. You spend money to have a good time. That’s what I was doing when I played poker, and it what I am doing when I play fantasy football with friends. It’s not so much about the money as it is about doing things with friends. And yes, it’s the same thing many where doing as they bought Powerball lottery tickets.

So why am I so against it?

Because the lottery is simply a tax on the poor who already don’t have enough as it is.

As a Christian, I want the poor and those in need to be helped, not hurt. Yet this is exactly what the lottery does.

As this study from Carnegie Melon University found out,

Although state lotteries, on average, return just 53 cents for every dollar spent on a ticket, people continue to pour money into them — especially low-income people, who spend a larger percentage of their incomes on lottery tickets than do the wealthier segments of society. A new Carnegie Mellon University study sheds light on the reasons why low-income lottery players eagerly invest in a product that provides poor returns…

“Some poor people see playing the lottery as their best opportunity for improving their financial situations, albeit wrongly so,” said the study’s lead author Emily Haisley, a doctoral student in the Department of Organizational Behavior and Theory at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. “The hope of getting out of poverty encourages people to continue to buy tickets, even though their chances of stumbling upon a life-changing windfall are nearly impossibly slim and buying lottery tickets in fact exacerbates the very poverty that purchasers are hoping to escape.”…

In the study, the researchers note that lotteries set off a vicious cycle that not only exploits low-income individuals’ desires to escape poverty but also directly prevents them from improving upon their financial situations.

I recently had someone tell me that they got a lottery scholarship in college and it was a huge help (in North Carolina, some of the profits the state makes from the lottery goes towards education). And while that’s great that this person was able to be helped, the truth is that their scholarship was largely paid for by poor people who could not afford it.

This is why I am against the lottery. But I’m not denouncing you if you went and bought a ticket. I understand for a lot of people right now they are just doing it for fun. But remember, many of the people who are doing it for fun right now are people who can afford it, and that’s not normally the case.

So I didn’t be buying a ticket. That and because the odds are 1 in 292 million that you or I were actually going to win. Which means you and I didn’t win, and I would be willing to bet (see what I did there!) that no one reading this post won it either.

As pastor and researcher Ed Stetzer puts it,

While someone is going to get rich this week, a whole lot of people are going to get a little poorer. We don’t need another “tax on the poor” and we don’t need the government supporting and promoting such efforts.

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