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September 30th, 2016

Max’s View

Out of Luck
****
Right now, near an American street corner near you, there’s a heartless dealer selling a colorful piece of paper to a hopeless addict.

That piece of paper is a lottery ticket. And the dealer is your State government.

“Out of Luck” is an important film about the shameful $70 billion state lottery industry. The lottery encourages addiction, enriches bureaucrats, and widens the gap of wealth inequality.

“But max: what about all the school children who benefit from the lottery?”

According to the movie, that’s basically a lie.

States earmark a set amount of funding for education every year. Yes, lotto revenue contributes to the State’s general fund. But it’s not as if politicians say: “Yay! Lots of people gambled. Now we can hire top notch teachers.” It’s more like: “Yay! Lots of people gambled. We don’t have to anger rich people and businesses by raising their taxes. Now they’ll be more apt to donate to our reelection fund.”

“But max: don’t you think that lotto players know that they’re tossing away their money and it’s their choice?”

Yeah, it’s their choice. But players don’t necessarily understand just how badly the odds are stacked against them.

The film exposes the fact that state lotteries, since they are government agencies, don’t have to abide by Truth in Advertising laws. And they take advantage of this freedom to lie by running an endless stream of ad campaigns that urge suckers to invest their surplus cash in a game of chance with much worse odds than slot machines.

“Out of Luck” shows us a disgraceful TV commercial featuring a pair of piggy-bank parents and their well-cared-for brood of piggy-bank piglets. ‘Multiply Your Money’ is the tag line.

Multiplying your money is exactly the opposite of what will happen if you play the lottery. It’s outrageous. It’s the equivalent of Pepsi running an ad featuring skinny people pushing kidney dialysis machines out the hospital window, saying: ‘Pepsi! It’ll melt off the pounds and cure your diabetes!’

“Out of Luck” argues that state lotteries are essentially a regressive tax. There are more lottery retailers in poor and minority neighborhoods because the government knows darn well who is buying the tickets.

I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who taught me that money comes from hard work and hard-earned money should be saved and invested. State lotteries prey on the millions of Americans who weren’t taught those lessons. Instead of doing what a good government should do and teach wholesome fiscal lessons to its underprivileged citizens, it eagerly keeps them ignorant and promises them long-shot dreams in exchange for their spare cash.

Since most people agree that the US would be a better place if wealth was more evenly distributed, it would seem like abolishing state lotteries is a no-brainer.

But it isn’t happening. Republicans like the lottery because they see it as a wholesome alternative to mandatory taxes. And Democrats like the lottery because they’re eager for more government funding no matter where it comes from. When politicians from both sides of the aisle agree on something, you know it’s awful and oppressive.

Since there is no political way out of the politician-caused mess, all I can do is urge you to take action yourself. Stop giving that dealer your money in exchange for a colorful slip of paper and an empty dream. Please never buy a lottery ticket again.

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