November 29, 2019 9:57:39 AM
This week marked a historic event in Mississippi. Monday at 5 a.m., the Mississippi Lottery Corporation offered its first lottery games -- a group of four scratch-off tickets that featured prizes up to $100,000.
More than 1,200 retailers offer the game cards and business was brisk. On Jan. 30, the MLC will offer residents a chance to participate in the multi-state lottery games Mega Millions and Powerball, with prizes that can reach the hundreds of millions. Mississippi may or may not establish its own traditional number-drawing lottery game as another option. To date, the MLC has made no commitment to that idea.
Although the lottery has never had universal support, the clamor for it has been steady for years. When faced with a serious roads/bridges crisis, the Mississippi Legislature finally approve a lottery during a special session in August 2018. The first $80 million will go to a fund for roads/bridges repair and maintenance. Any additional revenue will be earmarked for public education.
Opponents of the lottery say these games take advantage of vulnerable people for whom the lottery can often be viewed as desperate means of escaping poverty. Some even call it a tax on the poor because the games tend to be played by lower income citizens. The irony is that, in an effort to escape poverty, the money they spend can actually make their financial status even worse. Simply put, it's gambling and should be treated with caution like any other potentially addictive activity.
But the state cannot be responsible for the poor choices people make. In this case, it really is a matter of personal responsibility.
It is therefore important to view the lottery in proper perspective.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare, through the character Polonius, cautioned: "Costly thy habits as thy purse can buy."
That's good advice when it comes to the lottery. The lottery is a game, not a financial plan.
There will be winners -- and a few of them will win big -- but for most lottery players it's a bet that doesn't pay off.
The idea of becoming instantly wealthy is, naturally, an appealing thought and we are tempted to try our hand, especially if it requires only a dollar or two.
When viewed that way, the lottery is no threat to anyone.
But when folks use the money that would normally go to necessities in a bid to strike it rich, it's a foolish and possibly ruinous decision.
So we urge caution.
Remember. People don't invest in the lottery. They "play" it.
It's a game and should be treated as such.
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