I Have Never Played the Game

Physician's Money DigestJanuary31 2003
Volume 10
Issue 2

Every now and again when I'mshopping at my local supermarket,I see a friend or anacquaintance purchasing a lotteryticket. And I always tease the personwith, "Why's an intelligent personlike you buying those things?"Theperson, often with an embarrassedexpression, will usually say, "I'vebeen playing so long, if I quit buyingand my numbers came up, I think I'dhave to end it all."What a dream.

I'm proud to say that I havenever, ever purchased a lottery ticket.To me, it's the biggest waste of timeand money. That's an increasinglylonely stance, however.


According to statistics from theNational Coalition Against LegalizedGambling(NCALG; www.ncalg.org), the odds of buying a winninglottery ticket are about 5 millionto 1. Indeed, the NCALG points out,the more you play, the more you lose.

"Gambling's philosophy of something-for-nothing undermines theframework of our society,"says Dr.Tyler Jarvis, a professor of mathematicsat Brigham Young Universityand an expert on the study of gambling."We also need to rememberthat gambling's something-for-nothingis a lie. Both the gamblers and thecommunities that vainly hope tobenefit from it will find instead thatgambling is nothing-for-something.Gambling gives nothing of value, butsteals money and time, and corruptsthe morals of our society."

Dr. Jarvis estimates that about25% of the American population has"a weekly lottery habit."And it's thelarge multistate lotteries, those thatentice millions of players with thepromise of a huge jackpot, whichhold the worst odds. "Chances ofwinning are worse than 1 in 54 million,"Dr. Jarvis says. "To read aloudthe names of the losing ticket holdersfor just 1 drawing, it would takeabout 31/2 years."



Nearly 40 states have some formof government-sponsored gambling,and many studies also reveal that lotteriesprey on the poor. A report found that those NYC residentsliving in impoverished areasspent 8 times as much on lotterytickets as those living in more affluentareas. According to the NCALG,the most frequent lottery players arethose with annual household incomesbelow $10,000. And the proliferationof easily accessible gamblingvenues is only growing.

I don't want my physician-readersto think I'm a total killjoy. From timeto time, I'll make a $10 bet on a footballgame or I'll visit the racetrack fora day (my father-in-law says horse-handicappingtakes skill, which helearned from his physician-dad). Butto spend $25 a week on a hopelesslottery bet? That's not harmless"action"—it's borderline insanity.

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