Lotto Jackpot Brings Up Problem Gambling Issues

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America’s gambling addiction is usually hidden in the ordinary. Opportunities to spend a few bucks on instant tickets or a weekly drawing are just part of the retail scenery.

Except when jackpots swell to such incredible heights they become newsworthy. Then, the rush is on. It’s Christmas and Black Friday rolled into one huge orgy of spending. Spending on a dream.

The Odds

Like most gambling propositions, the Powerball Lottery is a kind of tax on the mathematically challenged. We simply aren’t equipped to evaluate odds that reach into the more than a million against (175 million to one for this latest draw). The comparisons to being struck by lightening don’t work. Hope springs eternal. And for most, it’s a minor expense on frivolous entertainment. But many aren’t quite that lucky.

Lotto Tickets and Scratchers

The vulnerable among us, who might normally conceal what they deem to be a shameful and guilt-ridden habit, are suddenly approved by the mainstream. Everyone’s buying tickets. According to a CBS Evening News Report on lottery addiction, Florida sold 20,000 Powerball tickets per minute the day of the drawing.

The report also tells of how even scratch-off tickets can be ruinous for those with a gambling addiction. Lisa Metzler, a letter carrier, wasted as much as $10,000 a week on instant tickets until she managed to get help.

"Gambling flipped my life upside down," Metzler said. "I shut out my family, shut out my friends, it was all I wanted to do... I was hooked from day one."

Less Treatment, More Marketing

That’s the dark side of all the ads and hoopla. With states cutting treatment budgets while simultaneously spending more on lottery marketing, one wonders how addicted the government has become to this revenue stream and what the ultimate costs are to citizens. Are they released from responsibility with the disclaimers printed on the back of every ticket sold?

From the Powerball website:

The Multi-State Lottery Association supports the efforts of the National Council on Problem Gambling to provide help for persons who may have a gambling problem. If you or someone you know has or might have a problem, please call 1-800-522-4700 for help or visit the National Council on Problem Gambling website at www.ncpgambling.org if you would like additional information on how to get help.

Unlike bar owners, lottery retailers have no responsibility to “cut off” those who overspend on lottery tickets.

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