Why Christians Should Avoid Lottery Fever
- Tuesday, October 18, 2005
The newspaper headlines certainly command attention when a record Powerball jackpot of at least $350-million is at stake. As a matter of fact, the gambling interests are counting on lots of attention ... and hoping for even greater sales.
The multi-state Powerball lottery's newest record jackpot comes almost three years after the last record-setting pay-off in 2002 ( a mere $314.9-million), and has been produced by a change in the lottery intended to boost jackpots in order to compete with other state lotteries.
Of course, the reality of the lottery is a bit more complicated. If a winner shows up with a ticket that matches all six numbers, the winning ticket-holder will not walk away with the full $350-million. The "cash option" for the jackpot will be $164.4-million ... and that's before the government steps in to claim taxes. Nevertheless, we can be sure there will be enough money left to entice participation. Thousands of ticket-buyers are rushing to purchase tickets.
"Lottery sales are going great. It's just a mess," Dennis Thornton, owner of L.A.'s Milk Depot in Scottsdale, Ariz., told USA Today. "People are all over the place, buying for themselves and for pools," he said.
Another drawing is scheduled for Wednesday night, and ticket buyers are lining up in 27 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to purchase their tickets. $300-million is a lot of money. A ticket to play costs only one dollar. So, where's the harm?
Where is the harm?
The tidal wave of state lotteries that has engulfed the nation in recent years is driven by a very clear state interest ... the desire for more revenue. Legislators and governors see lotteries as a means of raising vast sums of revenue for state projects and programs without raising taxes. The lottery is most often sold to the public as a way to fund education and other popular causes. With the public dead set against raising taxes, a lottery looks like an easy way out.
But, as is the case with most apparently easy options, the reality just isn't that simple. As The Christian Science Monitor has reported, the headlines don't tell the whole story. "The proceeds from state lotteries are less than you might think," says Molly Burke, researcher at the Education Commission of the States in Denver. "Even if they're all earmarked toward education, it isn't a huge amount. It's never quite as much as states would like the schools and the taxpayers to think."
In some states, dependence upon lottery proceeds has actually caused revenue for education to shrink. Even in Georgia, where the popular state lottery is credited with an impressive college scholarship program, a dependence upon lottery revenue has put the entire program at risk.
The moral problems involve even greater risks. A Christian understanding of the lottery involves at least four vital moral considerations. A quick review of these considerations may help Christians frame the lottery issue in a new and much needed light.
First, lotteries lie about the true path to financial security.
The vast jackpots advertised by lotteries attract a great deal of attention and entice many persons to belive that their true hope for financial security lies in taking a chance on the lottery. In truth, this is nonsense.
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