LOTTERIES: Monopoly Millionaires' Club
When we think of a club, we usually think of some kind of gathering in which people meet together to accomplish some common good. This club, however, is not a club at all. It's the latest deceptive marketing campaign to entice people to give up some of their money for the empty promise of easy riches.
This latest multistate lottery effort joins others, like Powerball and Mega Millions, already actively promoted across the country with one goal: to take as much money as possible from desperate people in order to fund the bottomless pit of government spending.
Altogether, 44 states plus the District of Columbia now have their own lotteries. On top of that, these states participate in various multi-state lotteries. States promote them as a means to raise additional money for various needs, including public education costs, college scholarships and various infrastructure needs. These are worthwhile causes, but of the nearly $70 billion spent on lottery tickets every year, payouts and administrative costs consume more than $45 billion of lottery receipts.
Redistribution of wealth
When lotteries were reintroduced in the states in 1964, they were limited to the individual states that started them. That initial misguided venture into government-sponsored gambling has produced what is now a massive system of wealth redistribution, principally from the poor to the middle class. It is established fact that the poor spend a higher percentage of their income on lotteries compared to other income groups and that the states' lottery revenue tends to benefit higher income groups. Just consider states that provide college scholarships through their lotteries. While the poor spend a higher percentage of their income on lotteries, more middle class children receive the lottery-funded scholarships because more of them attend college.
Now the states have a "millionaires" club lottery. At least the creators of this latest form of irresponsible government-sponsored gambling are being honest about their marketing message dangling in front of their "customers." This lottery isn't masking itself as a little entertainment, nor is it wrapping itself in a cloak of public good, like education funding, or anything else so noble. It is appealing to covetousness for material gain and escape from desperation.
The name of this game says it all. It promises to make the player an instant millionaire. He can join the "club" of the wealthy. For some, the game offers a chance to have all the things they want if they'll just buy a ticket or, better yet, many tickets to increase their odds of winning. For others, the appeal is a chance to escape the despair caused by poverty.
The common good
Our state governments are losing sight of their biblically-mandated goal of serving the public good (Romans 13:1-7). Its divine mandate is to reward good and punish evil. How can it possibly be good to be engaged in a massive scheme to profit from desperation and greed and to hurt the most desperately poor in the process? This hardly sounds like what God had in mind for government when He appointed it as His own instrument on earth to help humanity fulfill its purpose.
By sponsoring gambling, our state governments have become part of the problem its citizens must overcome rather than a partner to help them flourish. Because state governments have chosen this path to their own easy riches, their citizens are more impoverished. After all, the game is designed for most of them to lose. That's the only way the states, the stores and the operators get their cut. In the end, the poor, who grasp at their tickets as a way out, feel more hopeless, while the greedy, who imagined all they were going to buy, feel more resentful.
State-sponsored gambling is a national embarrassment. It's disgraceful that so many of the people we elect resort to the regressive nature of gambling rather than the hard work of promoting and empowering the public welfare through responsible governance. We need our elected leaders to demonstrate courage, not cunning, in solving our problems.
It is my prayer that we will soon see a wave of responsible citizenship across this country that will rid our governments of this predatory behavior. The citizens rose up nearly two centuries ago to end the national disgrace of lotteries. Many were so disgusted by the mismanagement, corruption and social costs that they banned lotteries in their state constitutions in the early 19th century. It can be done again. May God help us return our governments to His design for government as a servant for good.