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  • Robert Farago

As Luck Would Have It…

Or do you believe in God?

I didn’t win the lottery yesterday. Yes I bought a ticket, despite having a 300-million-to-one shot of scooping the $5.5b jackpot. Roughly the same odds as flipping a coin 100 times and getting heads every time.

Heads schmeads. People don’t think of the lottery in statistical terms. They buy binary. Either I’ll win or I won’t. But I definitely won’t win if I don’t buy a ticket. Even though I probably won’t. Win, that is. I’m definitely buying a ticket!

Why not? Mega Millions money goes to good causes via the über-efficient entity known as your state government .

Illinois, for example, gets 25 cents out of every MM lottery dollar. In 2021, their slice amounted to $786m, of which $762.5m was allocated for education and “special causes.”

Pay no attention to that $23.5m difference behind the curtain! The Kars for kids charity ain’t got nothin’ on Illinois’ Department of Education (save the world’s most annoying jingle).

Mind you, Land of Lincoln lottery proceeds aren’t added to the taxpayer funds set aside for education. They’re instead of.

The tax money that would have been spent on education – the average IL school superintendent’s salary is $180k, twice the national average – is “invested” in something else.

In that sense, a state lottery is a thinly disguised tax. A way to exploit the hopes and dreams of the general public to fund the hopes and dreams of perpetually perfidious politicians.

If we’re going down that road, rich people don’t tend to play the lottery (they already pay the lion’s share of all local, state and federal taxes). Duh. They don’t need to.

The government won’t admit it in a-million-to-one years, but the lottery serves another vital function: narcotizing the low-income underclass to the enormous economic disparity between themselves and their beloved “influencers.”

Billionaire? It could be you! The old RI lottery come-on sang the same siren song: where else can you buy a dream for a dollar? And it’s true. You can’t buy a lottery ticket without daydreaming about winning.

A lottery ticket stimulates visions of otherwise unimaginable bounty. An oceanfront suite at a five-star hotel! A gleaming Ferrari parked in front of a gated mansion! Endless hookers and blow/languid afternoons spent banging the pool boy! I mean, a college education and a leg-up for the kids.

There is an even more compelling compulsion driving MM sales: the dream of escaping financial misery.

Lest we forget, sixty percent of United States adults live paycheck-to-paycheck, while carrying considerable credit card debt.

Which brings us, believe or not, to the religious angle. Start with this. Winning the lottery is a matter of luck, right?

Professional gamblers see luck clearly – as nothing more or less than randomly occurring variables within a generally predictable statistical framework leading to a generally predictable outcome.

That’s not how most lottery ticket buyers view luck. They see it as God’s will. Winning or losing is His judgement.

A 2012 Pew Research Center study reported that 42 percent of Americans who attend religious services weekly or more play the lottery – compared to 28 percent of Americans who attend religious services less than weekly.

The study also found that lottery participation is higher among blacks and Hispanics and lower income citizens – groups more likely to be regular churchgoers.

In fact, I reckon buying a lottery ticket is a religious act. Joel Osteen’s prosperity gospel (a.k.a., satanism) in action. God? Please let this be a winning lottery ticket!

I’m not a religious man, but I’d bet dollars to donuts (my kind of action) that the MM player’s silent prayer for “luck” is accompanied by a question lurking in the back of their mind: do I deserve a winning ticket?

So, on the positive side, buying a MM lottery ticket gets “players” thinking positively, albeit in a totally unrealistic context as a form of social control.

On the negative side, not winning is depressing. Nope, sorry. You’re not worthy. Back to the daily grind! And try to be a better person, m’kay? One more thing (from me not Him)…

Researching my book HypnoHealth, I interviewed a U.K. lottery winner. The middle-class, middle-aged ticket holder’s sudden riches alienated her from her friends. “I sometimes wish I’d never bought that ticket,” she lamented.

Just like I did this morning. Only…. Let’s just say hope springs eternal. The water from that spring may not refresh, but it does slake my thirst for a bit. Or something like that. So help me God.

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