Recently while driving down a local highway, I
couldnít help noticing the big numbers displayed high in the air on an
outdoor billboard. The lottery jackpot was over $200 million. A little
voice in my head kept saying it could all be mine if I just picked the
right six numbers (Can you say ďdream big?Ē).
I turned my car around and headed for the nearest
convenience store to buy some lottery tickets. I rushed through the door
just in time to wait in a long line, since other folks had the same idea
ó we all wanted to get rich quick. I dropped a new Andrew Jackson on the
counter and the computer spit out 20 combinations of six numbers. That
night I watched anxiously as the evening news announced the winning
combination, and like millions of other lottery players, my dreams went
down the drain. Iíve often thought about what Iíd do if I won that
much money. Most of us would take care of our familiesí needs. Some of
us old-timers will remember the TV show The Millionaire whose star
millionaire, Michael Anthony, gave out money to needy people. Iíd like
to be in that situation.
Who Benefits from the Lottery?
The Virginia Lottery folks say lottery profits will
benefit our kidsí education. Knowing that the money was going to support
schools made me feel much better about having one less Andrew Jackson in
my wallet. A country store in Rixeyville displayed a replica of a $36,628
bank check made out to Virginia Education, proceeds provided by customers
who purchased tickets at the store. My wife and I had stopped on the way
to my sonís house to purchase one of the storeís excellent sandwiches
(their hot turkey sub is great). My wife couldnít resist the opportunity
to add to the education fund, and purchased some lottery scratch tickets.
Again, we drew a blank; but at least this time we were out just a couple
of George Washingtons. We probably would have been better off driving five
miles further down the road and putting the money in the grandkidsí
Somehow, funding the kidsí education with gambling
dollars just doesnít seem right. Our founding fathers knew that
education would be the basis of a democratic government. We can argue
whether education is primarily a state or federal function, but the
founding fathersí establishing land as the basis for the
educational-revenue stream showed great wisdom. Some of us may disagree
and think that our real-estate taxes are too high; but the fact remains
that public-education success is directly related to land as the basis for
Legislatures are looking for the easy way out when
they promote gambling schemes whose primary purpose is to supply funds for
education. Neighboring states are promoting slot machines as a way to
raise additional funds for education. They have even suggested using the
funds to help the elderly. If you donít like to scratch tickets or pull
levers, you can visit the local track and bet on the ponies. Were all of
these activities designed to support our kidsí education? Imagine local
schools offering bingo Ė theyíd probably run into stiff opposition
from local fire companies and some churches that have cornered the bingo
market. It seems much less painful purchasing a bingo card than putting
funds into an envelope for the church collection basket. Perhaps the same
principle could apply to education ó itís easier to buy a lottery
ticket than to pay a tax bill.
More Games of Chance than Ever
I donít have anything against games of chance.
Iíve pulled a few levers and bet on the trotters in my time. I purchase
lottery tickets and visit Atlantic City or Vegas on special occasions. We
occasionally go to the dog tracks in Florida when visiting the grandkids.
But speaking of grandkids, I just donít want their education depending
on their grandparentsí desire to gamble ó let state gambling proceeds
be used to support the salaries of general assembly members or the
governor. I can envision the day when the local school principal who needs
money for text books makes an announcement encouraging students to ask
their parents to buy more lottery tickets. Something about this concept is
Gambling is made so easy. I could switch the screen
while writing this article and gamble. The Internet brings Vegas to almost
every home. Itís football season and we have fantasy football, and local
office pools are already gearing up. ESPN has a new hit program, the World
Series of Poker. In a few years it will probably have a higher TV rating
than the baseball world series.
Games of chance are everywhere. This proliferation
will probably lead to more gamblers anonymous programs for gambling
addicts. Schools in the future will be encouraged to include gambling
addiction as part of their drug, alcohol, and sex education programs. The
addition of more time to solving the societal gambling problem will erode
math, reading and science scores, which in turn will spark another call
for more testing programs.
Connecting gambling to education attempts to make it
more legitimate. A word thatís more appropriately tied to gambling is
responsibility. Without this ďresponsibilityĒ connection, many of us
could get in trouble, including the very kids gambling proceeds are
supposed to help.
My family would like to thank the many readers who
took the time to write and call expressing their thoughts and prayers for
my son, Michael. Your compassionate responses show a side of our
society that is often overlooked. It is comforting to know that so
many people are willing to share their knowledge, experiences, and prayers
with a family they have never met.
there are at least two sides to every issue. Do you have a different
view? This column is meant to provoke thought, so keep sending
comments. Each one is read with the utmost interest. Send e-mail to: DrBmailbag@aol.com,
or send written responses to the editor. Mail will be forwarded
to the author.