Playing the Lottery - it's simply giving money to government

Playing the lottery, it's very much of a case of giving your money to government. I have to give our members of various state legislatures a little credit here - at least they found another way of taking money from their fellow citizens that doesn't involve legal theft of it in the form of taxes. In this case, a lottery is elected officials tricking their fellow citizens into giving up their money.

They know full well that a lottery is a "tax on the stupid" but they won't say anything like that out loud.

State lotteries are is some of the greatest moneymaking scams of our time. To be sure, lotteries have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars, but the chances of winning a lottery are very remote. And, the chances of you winning more than you lose is even more remote.

Here is a healthy discussion of why lotteries (and gambling in general) are bad for those of us engaged in frugal living.

It may seem contradictory, but I'm not against gambling at all. I'm just against me gambling my money, and I urge you to adopt the same philosophy about your money. After all, what is it that gambling buys for us? If we're honest with ourselves, we're purchasing entertainment, and were being driven to "buy" that entertainment with our own hope of getting rich quick. It's all part of what keeps us going from one day to the next - the hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

Remember, the only people who get rich quick are those involved in selling the prospect that you can get rich quick. Just think of it. If you hatched a great get rich quick scheme, why in the world would you get others involved? Wouldn't you simply spend your time working that scheme and building your own wealth? Of course you would, unless that scheme required fleecing a large flock of your fellow citizens. And, that's exactly what playing the lottery is all about.

What, Why, Who and How

Let's ask ourselves a few questions that will hopefully help us reconsider playing the lottery (and gambling in general). Of course, these are rhetorical questions, but they need to be asked if we're going to keep the risk of playing the lottery in perspective with our interests in earning money, investing it wisely, and spending it in a frugal manner. Here is what I suggest we ask ourselves:

  • Do you have any idea what the chances are of winning for those individuals who are playing the lottery? Have you done the math?

  • Recognizing that California has one of the oldest and richest lotteries in the country, why is it they have such tremendous budget problems, including an inability to adequately funded their school system? You might recall that funding the school system was one of the primary promises made to get the lottery passed in the State of California.

  • If the cost of a new casino exceeds $1 billion (and if often does), who pays for that? Or is that simply a wise investment on the part of the casino owners?

  • Why do casinos often have a photo on the wall that depicts those who win big? Why don't they have a photo showing all of the big losers, or all of those who consistently spend their money but never win much of anything? Is it because they don't have enough wall space?

  • Why were casinos one of the first businesses to stay open 24 hours a day?

  • Why are casinos one of the few businesses that offer check-cashing privileges, especially paychecks?

  • Why does the jackpot for a state lottery or Powerball continue to grow week after week after week, with no apparent winners identified for quite an extended period?

  • If playing the lottery is simply running numbers, an illegal activity, then why is it called "playing the lottery" instead of "running numbers?" Is it because "playing" sounds more like a fun and legal activity than "running?"

  • What are the things you learn when you sit down and have a conversation with individuals who are regularly playing the lottery or going to casinos? Have you ever had such a conversation?

  • If you had $50,000 to invest, would you be playing the lottery with that money, or would you place that money at risk by running your own lottery (if it were legal to do so)?

I'll wrap up this "on the soapbox" discussion about playing the lottery by giving you some insights from an acquaintance of mine who regularly engages in casino gambling (which is the same as playing the lottery, except it's a private enterprise with much more glamor associated with it).

Real Life Example

This man is in his late 50s. He's recently become accustomed, partly out of necessity, to living with and being cared for by his elderly mother. He has serious health problems that he's not effectively addressing, he lives on a meager income, much of his net worth is tied up in a modest single wide trailer home and personal belongings, none of which sit on any land that he owns, and yet when he has a couple hundred dollars in his pocket, he gets his friends together for gambling "on the boats" that are more than 100 miles from where he lives.

I understand that this example is anecdotal, but to me, that's a sufficient set of data points to suggest that I stay away from casinos and playing the lottery. They are both a form of gambling that is well beyond entertainment, and can become just another "tar baby" to deal with.

On a Personal Note

I've played the lottery as part of social interactions with others. I've been approached by co-workers to place money in a pool for a chance to win an especially large PowerBall jackpot. Sure, I tossed $20 into the hat, fully expecting nothing to come of it. And, of course, nothing came of it.

I should also let you know, that when I play cards from money, I do so for low stakes since it's entertainment only. I also stay focused on entertainment when I make a personal bet with another. And, in both cases, when I win, I redistribute my winnings back to those with whom I played the game or made the bet. I have no need to take money from others. My only interest is a little entertainment. And, whether it's playing the lottery or casino gambling, those activities are much too expensive for me to ever consider them as valid forms of regular entertainment.

I'm focused on preservation of my wealth and wise investment and use of my financial resources, so I'm happy to leave playing the lottery to others. I hope my frugal friends share similar views.

Before closing out this article, I should mention something that is more of a stump speech at a political rally than advice for frugal living, but it's worth considering. Lotteries aren't the rightful activity for our government because private industry can provide that function just fine. As a businessman in what is supposed to be a free marketplace, I fully support the idea of private lotteries because they can be a great source of wealth for the individual. However, when our government encourages others to start playing the lottery - their lottery - it's simply another way to extract money from others, using a game that is rigged and a marketplace that is closed to competition.

Whether it's a state run lottery or a privately owned "numbers game" that keeps dodging the vice squad, it's no activity that the frugal minded should be involved in. Neither is dog racing, high stakes gambling at the poker table, or all those rows of one armed bandits in Vegas, Reno or any of those of gambling boats that have sprung up across the country.

I encourage you and yours to stop gambling with your money and do something much wiser with what you've worked so hard for.

Done with Playing the Lottery, back to Avoid Money Making Scams

There certainly is a broad scope of topics here at Frugal Living Freedom. When you think about it, money permeates so very many activities in our lives, therefore, being frugal encompasses a wide range of interests, from being employed to taking a vacation, and just about everything in between. Enjoy the variety, pick up some new ideas, and start making frugality a part of your signature.

I'm a big proponent of being debt-free, and I mean entirely debt-free - no mortgage payment. It's not essential for financial freedom, but you'll love the feeling once you get there. If you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, how much more could you do for yourself with your current level of income? I suspect plenty.

If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.