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FIRST-PERSON: Lotteries, lies & economic daydreaming

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–The marketing directors of America’s state-run lotteries all deserve generous compensation packages. They have done their job so well that most low-to-middle-income American’s now believe they have a better chance of accumulating $500,000 by winning a lottery than by saving and investing.

Any marketing strategist worth his or her salt knows that the key to success is not in pushing a product, but rather in creating a concept, image or idea that a consumer can relate to. Lottery ad campaigns concentrate on selling a dream. The hope that in an instant a person can become financially set for life. It seems a certain segment of the American population is swallowing this fantasy — hook, line and sinker.

A recent poll conducted by the nonprofit Consumer Federation and the financial services firm Primerica revealed that 51 percent of people in households with incomes of $35,000 or less are firmly convinced they have a better chance of becoming financially secure by investing in a lottery than by any other means.

Lottery opponents have long warned about the conceptual fruit government-sponsored gambling would produce. More than a decade ago, a group opposing a lottery in Texas — calling themselves Texans Who Care — distributed a report titled “The Lottery Fact Book.” Included in the information was an item that conveyed the idea that state-run lotteries send the wrong message about success. It read: “State governments should not use their prestige, power and wealth to teach citizens the values of luck and chance as opposed to the values of hard work and planning. The government should not build false dreams and illusions in order that the state should profit. A society in need of hard work, discipline, saving, investment, and economic growth should not put its hope in a lottery.” The predicted result for states that ignored the aforementioned advice: An increase in the number of citizens who embrace economic daydreaming.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have chosen to disregard the warning that state-run gambling bears rotten economic fruit and shamelessly promote a get-rich-quick fantasy. Now that voters in Tennessee and North Dakota have opened the door for lotteries to become reality in their states, it is only a matter of time before they too join the economic dream weaving. The result: Many consumers, inundated with images of instant millionaires, become disinterested in making money the old-fashioned way. The government entices them with the constant and never-ending refrain that “a lottery ticket a day could possibly keep future financial woes away.”

The sobering reality is a person has a better chance of being murdered en route to purchase a lottery ticket than he or she does of winning a multi-million-dollar prize. In spite of this fact, many hard-working Americans are willing to trust their financial futures to a game of chance rather than wise investing.

How can intelligent people come to believe a lottery is the key to their financial security? John F. Kennedy said it well, “For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”

State-run lotteries, and those who market them, have so persistently presented the myth of lottery success that many working-class Americans are now banking their financial futures on a fantasy. As a result, the truth of sound financial planning is being buried under so many “Lotto” tickets.
Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs