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People are going gaga this week over the Mega Millions lottery jackpot passing $500 million. Millions of people are buying millions of dollars of tickets, which of course drives up the jackpot farther. Too bad this is all a celebration in irrationality.

You’ve a better chance of getting two holes-in-one in one round of golf, a near impossibility, than of winning the jackpot.

You’ve a better chance of being eaten by sharks in Ohio than of winning the lottery.

I call it a celebration of irrationality because people suspend reason in order to participate. Nothing about lotteries make sense; yet millions still buy tickets.

You have no ability to influence the outcome. You put your money in the pot and make a vain wish. The odds are all against you; except for a few token winners, only the lottery owners –the “House”—(state governments) win big. Think about it. If Mega Millions is giving away a huge chunk of $500M as a prize, think how much MM had to take in to make this happen.

A lot of people have to lose for one person to win, which is one reason I wrote my own book on the subject a few years back.

Many, and I do mean many, though the evidence is anecdotal rather than empirical, lottery winners later face social, personal, and financial problems, even bankruptcies. Why? People don’t know how to handle a lot of money. People you’ve forgotten come and beg you for money. Winners spend like there’s no tomorrow, but there is a tomorrow. Some winners have said winning the lottery was the worst thing that ever happened to them. Makes you think, or it should.

I tell people, “If you have to gamble (and I’m not for it), than at least don’t gamble in the lotteries. They’re the worst odds out there. Go gamble in a casino where you have at least a little (though not much) better odds of winning something.”

Lotteries are a state legislator’s dream—they’re a way to tax those least able to afford it without calling the revenue source a tax. What’s better, it’s a so-called “voluntary tax.” People participate, which is to say they give their money to the government, of their own free will. From a legislator’s perspective, what’s not to like? But who loses? The Public. You do.

Lotteries, even Mega Million lotteries with enormous jackpots, are ultimately a losing proposition. They’re bad politics and bad economics. Certainly, they’re a bad bet.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Americans still think they can get away with it. They still think they, unlike all civilizations that have gone before, can somehow take gambling into their bosom and not get burned. Not going to happen.

Since 1988 with the enactment of the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Americans have chased bad bets like the most obsessive of problem gamblers. We can’t get enough of it even though it drains local economies, sends families into bankruptcy, feeds graft, greed, and corruption, and results in higher costs for local governments responding to the social pathologies gambling encourages.

Gambling is as bad a bet as it’s ever been. No one ultimately wins in a casino except the House, the owners. And now the owners are in trouble.

A number of casino companies are wrestling with debt like so many cities and states, not to mention the Federal government. Bad times have combined with bad investments (bad bets?) to produce bad debt for casino owners. The casinos expanded when they should have contracted. They “let it ride” when they should have pulled in their money and gone home.

Let’s hope more than a few of these centers of debt-production go under from a taste of their own medicine.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Rev Ryan, Thanks for the kind comment. I just discovered it today. Thanks, too, for the link. Blessings to you and yours in your ministry.
Thanks, Rex, for a great blog. Thanks in particular for your leadership on the subject of gambling's folly. Consumer Reports just posted something interesting and related on one of their blogs: http://news.consumerreports.org/money/2011/04/before-buying-a-ticket-check-your-odds-of-winning-the-lottery.html

March Madness is a basketball fan’s fantasy: 68 of the best intercollegiate teams battling for supremacy. What more could a fan want?

Apparently for some it’s a chance to win money by gambling on the games. Sports betting is now a $100 billion per year “business,” and it’s getting bigger. March Madness offers the perfect opportunity, game after game, points and point spreads, quick results—some $12 billion bet in a matter of three weeks. It’s a multiple betting paradise, except for one thing: it’s mostly illegal, due to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.

Meanwhile, casinos offering legalized sports betting take in about $30 billion per year. But there’s pressure from legislatures and much of the public to legalize sports betting and tap its revenues for public coffers.

The problem, though, is that sports betting represents a significant threat to the integrity of sport. Reason being is that it’s not difficult to imagine people approaching players, coaches, and officials with monetary incentives to throw games. Think the 1919 Chicago “Black Sox” World Series scandal, Pete Rose accused of betting on games while managing the Cincinnati Reds, and most recently in 2007, NBA referee Tim Donaghy serving time for betting on games he officiated. Intercollegiate sports associations the NCAA and NAIA both oppose legalized sports betting, as do all the professional leagues, NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, etc.

Yet sports betting via local, noncommercial office bracket “pools” is increasing geometrically. College students are particularly susceptible, and golfers of all ages are by far the most inclined to gamble. With more than 2,000 gambling websites available and smart phone mobile gambling apps around the corner, gambling is a now pervasive opportunity of postmodern life.

Gambling seems harmless, a victimless crime if crime at all. But gambling’s history is replete with emotionally devastated individuals and bankrupt families. Sports betting is no different.

Because of its penchant for luring cheaters, legalized sports betting would do little but destroy the competitive purity of athletics. Eventually, sports betting would ruin the fun and fandom that makes athletics so enjoyable in the first place. Given that sports is already beset by drug challenges, legislators and the general public would do well to look for revenues somewhere other than sports.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

Grand Rapids was recently added to a list of cities targeted for casino development by a group wanting to put seven more privately held casinos in Michigan. Never mind that this would push Michigan’s total number of casinos to over thirty. Never mind that casinos have brought little but aggravation, traffic, social problems, and bankruptcies to almost every area in which they’ve been located.

Now Michigan Is Yours, the casino backers, need 320,000 signatures by July 7 to make a statewide ballot this November. It’s too early to project whether the group will be successful, but it doesn’t help that Grand Rapids’s otherwise good and decent Mayor George Heartwell has endorsed the idea for a casino in his city. He says he’s not a fan of casinos but believes Grand Rapids may have to develop one “from a defensive posture” because of all the other casinos in the state. Huh? Not a very compelling argument.

Now Michigan Is Yours consultants cited support for a casino’s economic development potential by University of Las Vegas Nevada professor Bill Thompson. Taking nothing away from Thompson’s credentials, his affirmation is nevertheless laughable because he hopes to work as a consultant for the Now Michigan Is Yours campaign. So of course he endorses the idea.

Unless they are located in an already attractive tourist or high traffic destination, casinos never bring to town what proponents claim they will: jobs, positive economic spinoffs, tourism. Casinos do bring to town negative impact upon local economies (Think about it: if tourists are not a casino’s primary patrons than locals are; the money casinos glean comes directly out of local families' and businesses' pockets), increased social pathologies (casinos and gambling don’t cause but certainly contribute to job absenteeism, debt, bankruptcies, divorce, and suicide), and decreases in land values near casinos.

For the past twenty years, casinos specifically and gambling generally have been looked upon by political leaders as potential pots of gold for local and state governments. But it’s rarely worked out that way. The problems gambling introduces to a community eventually far outstrip any potential benefits.

Grand Rapids would be ill-advised to introduce a casino to its economy. In addition to the economic problems noted, casinos contribute to a “seedier” atmosphere and general decrease in a locality's perceived reputation. Casinos are a losing bet.

CasiNo in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.