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A new lottery about greed and desperation

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have devised a new scheme for fleecing their residents—it’s called Monopoly Millionaires’ Club. When we think of a club, we usually think of some kind of gathering in which people meet together to accomplish some common good. This club, however, is not a club at all. It’s the latest deceptive marketing campaign to entice people to give up some of their money for the empty promise of easy riches.

This latest multistate lottery effort joins others, like Powerball and Mega Millions, already actively promoted across the country with one goal in mind: to take as much money as possible from desperate people in order to fund the bottomless pit of government spending.

Altogether, 44 states plus the District of Columbia now have their own lotteries. On top of that, these states participate in various multi-state lotteries. When lotteries were reintroduced in the states in 1964, they were limited to the individual states that started them. That initial misguided venture into government-sponsored gambling has produced what is now a massive system of wealth redistribution, principally from the poor to the middle class. It is established fact that the poor spend a higher percentage of their income on lotteries compared to other income groups and that the states’ lottery revenue tends to benefit higher income groups. That sucking sound from people’s pockets is caused by the nearly $70 billion they spend on lottery tickets every year.  

Now the states have another lottery. This one is called a “millionaires” club. At least the creators are being honest about their marketing message. This latest form of irresponsible government-sponsored gambling is upfront about what it is dangling in front of its “customers.” This lottery isn’t masking itself as a little entertainment, nor is it wrapping itself in a cloak of public good, like education funding, or anything else so noble. It is appealing to covetousness for material gain and escape from desperation. The name of this game says it all. It promises to make the player an instant millionaire. He can join the “Club” of the wealthy. For some, the game offers a chance to have all the things they want if they’ll just buy a ticket, or better yet, many tickets to increase their odds of winning. For others, the appeal is a chance to escape the despair caused by poverty.

Our state governments are losing sight of their biblically-mandated goal of serving the public good. Scripture says government is God’s servant (Rom. 13:1-7). Its divine mandate is to reward good and punish evil. How can it possibly be good to be engaged in a massive scheme to profit from greed and desperation and to hurt the poor in the process? This hardly sounds like what God had in mind for government when he appointed it as his own instrument on earth to help humanity fulfill its purpose.

By sponsoring gambling, our state governments have now become part of the problem its citizens must overcome rather than a partner to help them flourish. Because state governments have chosen this path to their own easy riches, their citizens are more impoverished. After all, most of them will lose. The game is designed for them to lose. That’s the only way the states, the stores, and the operators get their cut. In the end, the poor, who saw their ticket as their way out, feel more hopeless; and the greedy, who imagined all they were going to buy, feel more resentful.

State-sponsored gambling is a national embarrassment. It’s disgraceful that so many of the people we elect resort to the regressive nature of gambling rather than the hard work of promoting and empowering the public welfare through responsible governance. We need our elected leaders to demonstrate courage, not cunning, in solving our problems.

It is my prayer that we will soon see a wave of responsible citizenship across this country that will rid our governments of this predatory behavior. The citizens rose up nearly two centuries ago to end the national disgrace of lotteries. They can do it again. May God help us return our governments to their divinely mandated calling—for our good and his glory.

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