Pandemic Lottery Fever


Fever Never Breaks

In the past I’ve explored “The Persistence of Bad Ideas” (Dec. 9th, 2016) in politics. As an opener I pointed out that the ‘grand daddy’ of all bad ideas is playing the lottery expecting to win. The insidious nature of Lottery Fever is not lost on our elected officials who at least pay lip-service to the problems of chronic gambling. (See “Between A Hard Rock and a Lucky Place.”, May 23, 2017). When it’s visible, it’s headline news. When it’s the run-of-the-mill gambling frustration, no-one cares.

Now I’m not calling for recognition for failing at gambling. What color of ribbon would our politicians wear as they weep their crocodile tears? Should we have a national “Buy a Loser Lottery Ticket Day” to collectively commiserate? (Of course some other asshole would win then!) We’re all big boys and girls and if you can’t take the heat stay away from the lottery retailer. But after another useless ticket buy, I got to thinking about the corrosive effect of wanting to win a lottery at all.

In a “Hi and Lois” comic strip August 8, 2017, Hi’s drunken neighbor Thirsty, (get it?) is buying tickets and asks why Hi doesn’t likewise indulge. Hi says: “I’m afraid if I won, it would mess up my life”. This is an odd set up for a terrible punch line. The third panel is Thirsty miserably conceding that his life is already a mess. The theme I suppose is that “free” money can come at a terrible price. This has happened to some. But as we all know the real bitter pill is the weeks and weeks of little blank tickets that are the most common occurrence. “Sure”, we tell ourselves, “I’d like to find out how miserable I’d get by winning!” But that is one outcome that eludes us. What price do we pay for losing all the time?

A Disease Your Gov’t Wants You to Catch

There are functions that a government must perform like administering justice and maintaining infrastructure. Everything else they do to us is a rising tide of degrading our citizenship in the name of the “common good”. Health? Education? Since when do they know better than actual practitioners how to deliver those services? Sewer and water? No problem! In Ottawa you swim in both!

Since they greedily absorb any new task they can get their hands on, cash-addicted governments need insidious methods to keep their good times flowing. New taxes and fees pile onto old ones. They raise them on Fridays before long weekends so our illustrious media barely mentions it. Every nickel and dime is added to every dollar until its almost like real money…to us anyway.

Most Canadian provinces monopolize alcohol sales like it’s 1929. Excise taxes here have a one-way trajectory from outrageous to astronomical. A recent federal Liberal budget proposes just ratcheting them up automatically. Why bother with that pesky democracy crap. No political party will actually lower so-called ‘sin’ taxes anyway!

Gambling is a jealously guarded resource. (If only they paid as much attention to getting pipelines built we’d all be millionaires.). Sure provinces set up “corporations” to manage them, but where can I buy shares? Oh, I see. Like phony alcohol sales figures that claim billions of dollars are being raised for hospitals and schools, gambling revenues are painted as an innocent by-product of a legitimate business. Slick advertising campaigns, (well, annoying really), show us fulfilled, energetic winners taking on the world. Not a grumbling loser in sight. Yeah, I know, that’s the purpose of marketing. Don’t like it; tune it out.

But if government was at all concerned for the down stream effects of their dirty business, why all the cajoling and pushing? After all, cigarettes must be sold in plain packaging; from behind a shameful opaque shield. If governments simply want the revenue; why the shiny tickets and phony bonhomie? Why not sell only black and white tickets with a standard prize of say, $10,000. As always most tickets would be losers but revenues would be just as steady. Or does the government and their gambling industry allies know something more? I guess they know that only by injecting fake dreams into the process can they keep the rubes coming in the door.

Self Infecting or Self Reflecting

There are people who like gambling and accept losing as part of the game. There are those who wave goodbye to a couple of bucks a week and don’t think twice about it. Or at least, that’s what they tell themselves. Eighteen per cent of Ontario adults buy lottery tickets every week; 45% at least monthly. (It would be nice to have them visit this site as often, but I realize most people don’t take their purchases so seriously). I can’t be the only one who not only attempts to win, but even imagines a sliding scale of success.

Win a hundred bucks or two? Cool. Good for a case of beer or extra wine. A thousand or two I would be acceptable. But it’s the tens and hundreds of thousands we crave! Millions might be problematic and I’m not sure I actually desire a Lotto Max jackpot when it hits $50-60 million. (Think of the responsibility for making something out of that! Ugh!). At every level I can enumerate what bills I can pay and how I can assist my family. I truly don’t need to buy more fancy shit; I just want to own the shit I have now!

Ultimately though we are paying off our bills and helping out our families. At any time we can be charitable to the less fortunate and make investments for future comfort. We don’t need windfall profits to do any of that.

I guess the problem is the slow-motion nature of living and working day to day while debts go on forever. In addition to that, elected governments routinely snatch our future away with massive debts and excessive taxation. Any short cut looks like the only way out. So, as a result of the very government policies that drag us down, along comes a phony government scheme to boost us up! You only have to remember: you’re not playing the lottery, it’s playing you! Sadly, so is your government.

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