TOM THE DANCING BUG: Your Government Is Trying to Get You to Lose Money


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Arggh, Lucky Ducky!!


This kills me every time I think about it. I have to take a few deep breaths and remind myself that someone will always be running a numbers racket, and this is the least destructive.


I feel both ways on this one.

Yes, the lottery is a tax upon innumeracy, and disproportionally hits the folks who can least afford it. (And yes, as da_Bird points out, it’s actually a significantly bad bet compared to most other legal gambling – qualified because part of the problem with illegal is that you often have no clue what the actual odds are.)

On the other hand… To some extent, this is a perfect illustration of the way I wish we’d treat recreational drugs: legalize, control quality, tax, use the taxes (and the profit, if it’s government-supplied) to address social ills, preferably those caused by or causing the problematic behavior. (Which targeting the lottery income to education actually does – or would if the states didn’t reduce funding from other sources to compensate.) The alternative of having people play illegal numbers games run by organized crime would certainly not be an improvement!

I’ve also spoken to someone who was buying a lottery ticket every week even though he really couldn’t afford it. As he explained it, he knew darned well what the odds were and that all he was buying was a bit of fantasy… but he needed that fantasy to help him believe that he was eventually going to get his life turned around. Personally I consider that equivalent to a drug dependency, though it isn’t the classic gambling addiction… but I can understand where he was coming from.


I believe that every lottery player should be forced to sit down and watch a movie or two about the havoc and devastation wreaked on people, families and entire communities after winning the big jackpot.

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Years ago, when I was bored and working in a convenience store, I did the math on a handful of $1 scratch-off tickets. The expected payoff (figuring the odds of winning $1, $5, $100, everything) was a little more than fifty cents.

So, if you’re defining “expectations value” the way that I’d define it, you’re gambling in about the worst possible way. You’d be much better off pulling the handle on a dollar-slot machine, which usually pay out (IIRC) around 95 cents on the dollar. Plus, you’d get to see all the pretty lights, instead of being hunched over in your car in the parking lot.

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… Actually, you’re right; I was misremembering. I’ll amend my post.

Won’t work. Everyone will simply say “yeah, but I would handle it better.” And many of them may be right.


My biggest issue with the lottery is the fact that all other forms of lotteries are illegal.


May depend on where you are. I’ve seen charities run 50/50 lotteries as fundraisers, for example.

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Bingo is another exception, but in a world where lottery-based savings accounts are shut down for illegally running lotteries it’s obnoxious that morality based laws allow for the state to get theirs.

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It’s not this way in Canada.

The lotteries in Canada are all government run and are subject to truth in advertising laws, right down to how many scratch ticket prizes have been claimed already - because why would you buy a ticket if the big prize has already been won?


Yep. Still a tax on people bad at math though.

I have only lived in Utah and Nevada so getting lotto tickets is more of a strange novelty for me.

I only buy lottery tickets when I need a convenient way to remember the GPS coordinates for where I bury stuff in the desert.


Though if someone does happen to win, gambling winnings aren’t taxed in Canada. And the main lotteries advertise the actual jackpot rather than an annuity. The current Lotto Max jackpot is $50 million with 10 additional $1 million drawings. If you’re the sole winner of that $50 million prize, you get a cheque for $50 million and don’t pay any tax on it.

Or a game: A game that you pay to play and sometimes win money - sometimes. I think it’s more an issue of perception and value. If you’re palying for any reason other than to have a little thrill, then you’re playing for the wrong reasons. If that thrill isn’t worth a dollar to you, don’t play.


How is it the least destructive? The numbers rackets I know of have better odds for winning. The fact that a it is sanctioned by the government makes it more destructive than an illegal one IMO.

The problem is, people don’t “play to play,” at least in my experience selling the damn things for four years. Probably 90% of the tickets were sold to the same two dozen people, people who would buy forty or fifty bucks at a clip, and if they actually hit on something you know damn well they’d keep trading the tickets in for more until the state had their money for good. I’m not going to begrudge people who spend a couple bucks on a Megabucks ticket every week, but let’s be honest; that’s not who the state’s making their money from.

I’d see people who’d go around to different stores because one store would be “hot!” People who would ask you what number the tickets were, because supposedly they NEVER put big winners at the beginning of the roll (and certainly never at the end!) Every single day, the same people. It’s an addiction and the government should not be in the business of promoting it.

And… people who are on government assistance get unfairly demonized by many social conservatives, but it’s frustrating as hell to sell someone a gallon of milk with their food stamps while they drop $30 on scratch-offs.

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While we’re at it, I want to remind 'Mercans that meanwhile, in Canada, lottery winnings are NOT taxed.

/and we still have Medicare.