By George E. Curry, George Curry Media Columnist
Evidently, neither you nor I had the Jan. 13 winning Powerball combination: 4, 8, 19, 27, 34, (10).
After allowing ourselves to dream of winning it all, fantasizing about how we would spend the first few mil-lions, and vacillating between whether to take our share in an annuity or a lump sum payment, reality has set in. We did all that dreaming for nothing.
But it was fun while it lasted, which wasn’t long. I don’t usually purchase lottery tickets. But after spending Christmas and New Year’s in Georgia and attending a funeral in Alabama, heading back home I bought tickets in Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
It takes neither a rocket scientist nor a social scientist to figure out that 1 in 292,201,338 are not good odds. As we kept being reminded, we had a better chance of getting struck by lightning (one in 134,906), being attacked by a shark (one in 11.5 million) or dying in a terrorist attack on an airplane (one in 25 million) than winning the Powerball drawing.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t the only person who had a dream.
After tithing, sharing some of my winnings with relatives, setting up trust funds for the grandkids, stashing money away in some conservative long-term investments and setting a-side allocations for the tax man, I wanted to figure out a way to help save my alma mater, Knoxville College, which is perilously close to permanently closing its doors.
I have always dreamed of setting up a family education fund to support any relative who will need financial assistance in the future to attend college. Winning even a third of the Powerball would have provided enough funds to endow that project.
On a smaller scale, I also dreamed of funding my new business venture, EmergeNewsOnline.com, a digital version of Emerge: Black America’s Newsmagazine, where I served as editor until it closed 15 years ago. Winning the Powerball would have allowed me to discontinue my Go-FundMe campaign to raise funds to make that a reality.
Ah, dreams are so nice – until you wake up to the cold reality of not having Powerball numbers 4, 8, 19, 27, 34, (10).
As I mentioned, I don’t usually buy lottery tickets. It’s not a regular habit I am about to adopt now. I am going to bring a digital version of Emerge back in the next month or so and continue writing my weekly syndicated column. Instead of merely dreaming about winning the Powerball, I have an obligation to write about the downside of state-sponsored gambling.
One of the cruelest aspects of lotteries is that they prey on people who can least afford to stand in those long lines to buy tickets.
Writing in the Washington Post, Petula Dvorak observed, “In many states, it’s the poorest counties bringing in the most lottery revenue. North Carolina Policy Watch found that counties where nearly a quarter of the population lived in poverty sold as much as $434 a person in lottery tickets.
“Why? Maybe because most of the lotto machines are in the poorest neighborhoods, in the liquor and convenience stores and delis that are more prominent in low-income areas.
“Some studies estimate that the poorest households – those bringing in less than $13,000 a year – spend an average of 9 percent of their income on lottery tickets.”
Like conservatives, some states have misappropriated Dr. King’s name – and dream – to sell lottery tickets.
“Kasey Henricks, a law and social science fellow at the American Bar Foundation, who has a book coming out later this year on ‘State Looteries’ argues there’s also been a racial component to states’ increased reliance on lottery revenues, since people of color play the lottery more, even controlling for income,” according to Fortune magazine.
“In an interview, Henricks noted that advertising in the 1980s by the New York and Washington D.C. lotteries actually played off Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous ‘I have a Dream’ speech. ‘All you need is a dollar and a dream,’’ was the New York slogan. DC proclaimed: ‘His [Martin Luther King, Jr.’s] vision lives on … honor the dream.’”
We’re expected to feel good about buying lottery tickets because most of the money goes to good causes, such as scholarships and improving schools. But even that often has a catch to it.
One report concluded, “There is a growing body of research that concludes that the reverse Robin Hood effect is indeed a problem when lottery revenues fund merit-based scholarships. Two recent studies have examined Georgia’s HOPE scholarship and Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship.
“Rubenstein and Scafidi (2002) estimate the tax incidence of the Georgia lottery combined with the incidence of the benefits of the HOPE scholarship for households in each of Georgia’s counties. Their results indicate that lower income and non-white households purchase a disproportionately large number of lottery tickets; whereas, higher income and white households receive a disproportionately large number of HOPE scholarships.”
That’s not honoring Dr. King – it’s turning his dream into a nightmare.
George E. Curry is President and CEO of George Curry Media, LLC. He is the former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA). He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at twitter.com/currygeorge, George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook, and Periscope.