Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I can't tell you the last time I bought a lottery ticket. It was probably a year or so ago, when the Mega Millions jackpot soared into the hundreds of millions of dollars. But, this week I spent $20 on twenty quick pick tickets. Hell, I'm only working part time, maybe my time has come to be America's next millionaire. There's 170 million dollars in this week's pot. If I take the cash option, I'd get nearly 100 million dollars. I can live with that.

But, I'm not the only one going lotto crazy. I've noticed the lines are longer than ever at the grocery stores. People, I think, feel any disposable income they may have might be better spent trying a one-in-a-50-million chance of winning a big cash lottery prize. There's this lady who always clogs up the line at the corner market in my Carroll Gardens neighborhood. She's the type who plays the same daily numbers every day. She has her list of numbers and recites them to the clerk who dutifully punches them into his computer. But, it doesn't stop there. She then proceeds to buy up a bundle of scratch off tickets, mixing and matching as she's randomly pointing to the dangling cards behind the register. I see the same people everyday, about the same time. This lottery ticket buying thing has become their daily ritual. But, I'm also seeing plenty of new faces, people who perhaps have taken pay cuts, lost their jobs or are just worried about the economy. Folks who expect in a fleeting momment that the lottery will change their lives for ever.

Gambling is a scary addiction. I know many people who play cards, the horses, football pools and the like. Some people I know do Atlantic City once or twice a week, often gambling away thousands of dollars at a time. I know these folks and I also know they're not rich. Rich people gamble because its fun and they don't have much to lose. Poor people gamble in hopes of becoming rich and it has become an obession, because you've heard the slogan, "you can't win, if you don't play." That's true, but playing these games every day is going to put you in debt.

Have you seen what gambling has done to the urban landscape of Atlantic City. Back in 1978, when Resorts International opened the first casino, they promised to pump money back into the economy to give blighted neighborhoods a make-over. That never happened. In fact, over the years, as poor residents looked to strike it rich at the newly opened casinos, they found themselves even poorer. Crime went up and so did the unemployment rate. Walk just a few blocks from the strip and you're in some of the worst slums in the country. Yeah, gambling really paid off for them.

I've decided if I ever won big in the lottery, I'd give back. I'd turn my blog into a gift giving machine. I'd grant wishes to needy people, after of course I spent some money on myself and my family. So, if you'd like to help me in my cause, feel free to send me some money, so I can buy lotto tickets and when I win, I'll "pay it forward," just like 12-year old Trevor McKinney did in the movie of the same name.

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