New Jersey Lottery Ethics…Well, Not Exactly

New Jersey has taken the live drawings for the state lottery off of television and placed it on the internet. Many regular lottery players are upset about this, it seems.

“I like to see them pull it so they don’t have the chance to switch it,” said one eighty-year-old player. “Older people don’t trust the system. We know what happens.” She doesn’t own a computer, nor do her friends, and they all say they won’t play the lottery again until they can watch the drawings on their televisions. Indeed, the New Jersey Lottery is getting many such complaints, and expected them.

Why?

Because the people most likely to play the lottery are poor, badly educated, ill-informed, dumb, or all of the above, that’s why. As a group, people who have home computers are more affluent, educated, and smart enough to know that wasting money on a multi-million-to-one chance at striking it rich is a sucker’s bet. In fact, if the state really cared about fairness and compassion, it would keep the lottery drawing off of TV for good, so that the most gullible and vulnerable players, like the complaining octogenarian and her friends, would stop spending money on tickets they couldn’t afford.

Maybe, if it really wanted to do the right thing, New Jersey would end the regressive lottery entirely, and instead of picking up revenue from state-sponsored gambling by citizens on food stamps, its legislators would have the courage and integrity to raise taxes on the people who could afford it!  You know—like the ones who don’t play the lottery?

Nah. The Lottery’s internet stream is broadcast quality and soon it will be made available to TV outlets, it tells us. State officials are cutting a deal with WNET that will allow the station to incorporating the live stream into its NJTV programming.

So not to worry—all the New Jersey citizens who have no business gambling away their money will soon have the TV feed they need to feel secure about it. Because they are, you know, morons. And the great State of New Jersey wants to keep them happy, trusting,  and poor.

9 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, The Internet, U.S. Society

9 responses to “New Jersey Lottery Ethics…Well, Not Exactly

  1. Lianne Best

    I once heard that the lottery is a tax on stupid people. Punch in the gut honesty there!

  2. Dwayne N. Zechman

    Wow.

    I have a running joke I use to explain why I don’t gamble. I tell people that I have a RARE condition known as . . . Expertise in Mathematics.

    That said, the Libertarian-leaning part of me is screaming out “BUT IT’S THEIR MONEY!!!” Part of having freedom is the ability to choose to spend our money however we like, even if our choices are ultimately bad for us.

    I don’t at all like the line of thinking that governments should get involved in telling people, much less enforcing people’s decisions just because someone with some sort of advocacy opinion decides that it’s “bad”. It’s a slippery slope that leads to things like ridiculous warnings on cigarettes and bans on fast-food restaurants.

    (And yes, I understand that the state lottery is a special case, since it is the government itself providing the lottery. But the principle still applies to all those casinos in New Jersey between Mediterranean Avenue and the Boardwalk.)

    It’s everyone’s right in a free society to do whatever they want with their private property (in this case, money) so long as it is not criminal in some way. That means lottery tickets, cigarettes, alcohol, foods containing trans-fats, movie tickets to see Green Lantern, DVD’s of Jersey Shore, or (in my case) over $1500 worth of downloadable songs for Rock Band on the XBox 360.

    As someone I respect immeasurably once wrote:
    The ethical value of autonomy—letting adults make their own choices, good or bad, wise or not, in their lives, is hard for some people . . . to grasp…especially when they are so sure they know better.

    –Dwayne

    • And I’d say this is one of the places where libertarian principles fail spectacularly. This is in the same category as the state manufacturing and advertising cigarettes because its profitable. The DC government got in trouble for an EFFECTIVE lottery ad showing an older African American man telling his son that this was the only way to get ahead. They pulled it, but that showed me the complete lack of values in the exercise.I’m all for autonomy, but exploiting desperation and stupidity for fiscal gain is despicable, and certainly not something the state itself should do, as a revenue generator, no less. We can argue about whether it should stop others from doing it. Not this. I see no valid argument for state lotteries. It’s cynical, cowardly, greedy, and irresponsible.

      • Dwayne N. Zechman

        And here we agree. This is a case of “the state should not participate in things like this” rather than “the state should regulate things like this”. IMO, that distinction is VERY important.

        –Dwayne

  3. Tom Fuller

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m no fan of government-sponsored lotteries, and I share all of the concerns about them mentioned above.

    But a facile slogan like “lotteries are a tax on people who don’t understand math” is, like most facile slogans, too simplistic a way of making the arguments. There are plenty of psychological and economic reasons why even people who understand the math buy lottery tickets that are, quite literally, bad bets. There is lots of research on this; one of the better articles is now 21 years old, but is still cited as a good, brief, and comprehensible overview:

    http://walkerd.people.cofc.edu/360/AcademicArticles/ClotfelterCookLottery.pdf

    Every gamble is a losing bet in the long run; otherwise it wouldn’t be a gamble. The trouble with state-run lotteries is not so much that they exploit those who “don’t get it”; they exploit anyone, even a mathematical genius, who is drawn towards what society generally regards as undesirable actities, thereby sending the same mixed messages as taxes on tobacco and alcohol.

  4. Jeff

    At college, when my friend worked for a convenience store, he noticed the guy who owned the nearby Chinese restaurant would buy TONS of scratch tickets (like $40 a day). My father once knew a Chinese guy who also gambled a lot. I think he thought it was a cultural thing; I don’t have the perspective to know for sure.

    I admit: I’ll occasionally buy one Powerball ticket when the jackpot it high enough. I figure astronomical odds are better than no odds at all, and it reminds me, after I win, not to do it again.

    That lesson never sticks, but it’s the same thing I go through when I see repeats of Enterprise on the Sci-Fi channel. Just about EVERY time I’ve watched a repeat of Enterprise, I’m like, “Wow, this show is friggin’ awful. Why did I give my time to this show?” And yet a few months later, I’m always, “Hmm, Enterprise. I know the last sixteen episodes I watched were like dental torture in a noisy airport full of teenagers hitting trash cans with cats, but maybe THIS one will be good.”

    Clearly, I never learn.

  5. Elizabeth

    Left of out of Jack’s piece (and perhaps not applicable to New Jersey) is the BIG LIE most states use (or used to use) to sell the lottery: “The profits go to education!”

    Maybe I’ll check the stats: last I heard, perhaps 1% went to education, with billions going to the lottery-managers, and the prizes going to the lucky players.

    The times I’ve gambled (Bahamas, e.g.), it was for entertainment. Allow yourself a few hundred bucks and see if you come out ahead or behind. It can be a fun evening.

    But the lottery DOES prey on those who can afford it least. If they think it’s “they’re only way out” of poverty, they’ve been sold a giant bill of goods. I have often seen people in 7-11 shell out $40-50 at a pop looking for that big win. No one wants to explain to them that the $40-50 dollars a week SAVED might actually, eventually mean something to them.

    I was called once for a survey for the Virginia Lottery. The questions were hilarious: “How often do you play the lottery?” “How much do you bet on the lottery?” “How often do you discuss the lottery with your friends?” “How many of your friends have won anything in the lottery?”

    I told them I have never played the lottery, would never play the lottery, did not know one single person who did, and that I thought it was a corrupt and regressive tax on the poor. I don’t think I made the “Comments” section.

  6. Michael

    Is it OK to overcharge the elderly for home repairs? Why not, it is their money and they agreed to it? Is it OK to rotate “account reps” on all the retirement accounts every 2 years so you can charge a $50,000 service fee to “reorient the account”? Why not, they signed the paper? Is it OK to offer to buy coins you know are worth $2000 off of an 80-year old man for $50? Why not, he agreed to it and he needed money to pay for the nursing care for his wife? You are doing him a favor!

    Is it OK for the state to sell lottery tickets?

  7. dawn

    Ill never play the lottery again. I have a scratch off that won pretty big,I brought it to the store and when it scaned it said it won 7dollars?! SCAM! We,the store owner and I , looked right at it. It won a lot more then that! Now there is no way to get in touch with anyone,the lottery commision just rings when you call. Ill never play again because if this was a life changing amount this is what would happen to me forsure and I’d kill myself no doubt!

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