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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, April 20, 2014

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Readers Blog: BeautyBee

Gambling on our futures. The rise of the Lottery in the U.S.

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I like gambling.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I do it a lot, but when I do gamble I enjoy myself. It's one of the reasons I try to vacation in Las Vegas at least once a year. The Belinda Joy that steps on a plane at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, is a far cry from the Belinda Joy that steps off the plane in Las Vegas at McCarran Airport. I look, walk, talk and act like another person. Those that know me best would be surprised by many of the things I have seen and done while partying in Las Vegas.

Keep in mind I am a self defined nerd, so my idea of wild and crazy may pale in comparison to most folks. I drink too much, eat too much and flirt like crazy. I have sung in smoky Karaoke bars....badly. I have shouted and hooted as men old enough to be my son gyrated in front of me in cheesy male strip shows such as Chippendale's. I listen to jokes at comedy clubs that can even make me, a Black gal blush! I sleep late in darkened and super quiet hotel rooms. And I gamble. One and two cents slot machines are my favorites. I can play the slots for hours on only $20. You have no idea how much you can win off of just a $20 investment. If lucky, I can parlay $20 into $200 in a couple of hours. I always end up losing it in the end....but the ride of being up and then down and then up again is exhilarating!

However, closer to home and away from the faux Parisian and Greek architecture of Las Vegas Blvd., back in small towns and big cities across America, there is gambling taking place that is rarely admitted to by those that play. Ask a poor or middle class person and they will readily admit to playing the lottery. But for most people it is a dirty little secret. Much like pornography, millions buy it given the multi million dollars it generates each year, but few fess up to purchasing it. It reminds me of people that "claim" to not own a TV or watch it, yet ask them about a particular show and they can tell you all about it.

I have had my share of debates about the lottery with friends and associates. People who go on and on about how it is a scam perpetrated on the poor and less educated. How it supposedly gives people a false belief that they can be rich one day by simply buying one winning ticket. How they refuse to spend their money on anything as senseless as the lottery. "Do you know the odds of winning Bee? They are millions to one...you aren't going to win, save your money! You'd be better off tearing up that dollar because the chances of you winning are slim to none!" I have heard it all from countless people.

That is until the lottery approaches $200 million or more! Then you see the same people in lines at gas stations and convenience stores hoping to buy that winning ticket. "I don't usually play but....if I could win $200 million for just a buck....what the heck!" That's all you hear from usual naysayers.

What the heck indeed. The odds remain the same no matter how many people play. So if it is foolish to spend a dollar in hopes of winning $20 Million, why isn't it just as foolish to spend a dollar to win $200 million? It's not.

In Wisconsin we have a lottery game called 2nd Chance which is basically you mail in $5 worth of losing lottery tickets and if your name is drawn, you win $1,000. They pull 10 lucky winners each week and earlier this year... I won. I was excited! $1,000 for $5, that's a good trade off. I was telling everyone I knew about my winnings. Snatching up little babies from their strollers telling them about my new found riches....telling complete strangers on the streets....even dogs out for a walk with their owners weren't spared....I was so happy I was telling anyone that would listen.:-)

Most of my friends and family were of course happy for me, but there (and there is always one in the bunch) but there was one friend that wasn't so happy for me. She made it a point to tell me "Yea but how much do you spend on the lottery in a year? I bet you just got back in one check what you spend in a year, so you really didn't win anything." She missed the point.

I happen to be a supporter of the lottery. I believe they are to be supported by way of those that buy the tickets, either boldly and in an upfront and spirited manner, or those that do so as if they are scoring crack or some other illegal drug "Yea...umm...can I get $1 quick pick for the Wednesday night drawing....." as they look over their shoulder, hoping no one they know will see them buying it. The money goes for a good cause and helps contribute to the benefit of countless communities throughout the U.S.

The downside is there are those that have a gambling problem. Those that spend far too much on the lottery as they chase that win that is just 6 numbers away. However, as one of the latest lottery commercials in our state of Wisconsin that is running now points out, it gives you a reason to dream. Ask anyone that has ever hit the jackpot of a lottery, for $1 your life can change for the better. For 100 pennies, 20 nickels or 10 dimes, you can acquire a level of wealth that can change your life and those you love. That's pretty good. There will always be people that abuse or have a dysfunctional relationship with anything. Whether it be food, sex, alcohol or gambling, some people just can't help but become addicted. But they are the exceptions.

For the majority of us, gambling is a harmless, innocent way to enjoy ourselves. Sometimes we benefit from it, more often we don't. However just as I do when I am in Las Vegas at a slot machine, I may be losing a small about of money, but it was worth it to dream I had won.....if only for a moment.

The price is worth the dream.

 

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