The Pennsylvania Lottery has a slogan—“Proceeds benefit older Pennsylvanians.” The PA Lottery boasts of the fact that it’s the only lottery in the nation that exclusively targets all of it proceeds to programs for older residents. Clearly the Pennsylvania Lottery understands its core market—POOR and OLD People. Studies have shown that ZIP codes that spend four times what anyone else does are those in lower-income parts of town. This article is in no way an attempt to attack the Pennsylvania lottery in and of it-self. This article is written to heighten awareness that all forms gambling including bingo, lottery and casinos are a tax on poor and older people.
My mentor often reminds me that if you want to be rich—do what rich people do and if you want to be poor do what poor people do. Having been raised by poor people and most of my closest friends being poor people, naturally my wife and I have some poor people habits and tendencies. My wife claims that she enjoys bingo and I claim to enjoy going to casinos. I have had the opportunity to frequent various bingo halls and casinos over the years. As I began to learn how money works and began to hear that gambling is a tax on the poor, I began to pay attention to the people that filled the bingo halls and casinos. As you look at the people passing by, it’s easy to see that a great majority of the people who frequent bingo halls and casinos are aging people. As I began to strike up conversation with people at these places it became obvious that many come from low-income communities. The same holds true for lottery as well. If you’re ever at a convenience store, gas station or grocery store that sells lottery tickets, pay attention to the long lines. You can easily identify most of the patrons buying lottery tickets are old and poor people.
My observation forced me to think back to my childhood. I was brought up in an impoverished community. I grew up watching my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors engaging in lottery, bingo, casinos and other forms of gambling on a daily basis. It’s mind boggling as I think back and reflect on how much money was and continues to be spent trying to make a come-up gambling their money away. I’ve watched people sacrifice bill money hoping they’ll win so that they can recoup the bill money plus have some extra money to spend. I’ve watched people spend way too much money on dream books, lucky candles, and other merchandise as if these merchandises will give them some advantage. I’ve witnessed first hand close relatives spending $20per day on the lottery (before they had mid-day lottery), $40 per day on bingo and roughly $150 every two months at casinos. That equals $375 per month spent on gambling each and every month for the past 30 years of my life. The sad reality is that over the 30 year period that I’ve watched and continue to watch my close relatives engage in lottery, bingo, casinos and other forms of gambling—they are still POOR PEOPLE.
Mathematically and statically speaking gambling is a rip-off and is a tax on the poor. Consider the size of the various casinos and the lavish decoration. Who’s paying for it? Many churches today and other organizations profit dearly from proceeds from bingo. Who’s paying for it? I had a friend who owned a small convenience store. He told me that the lottery was his best marketing tool. It attracted a lot of traffic to the store. People spent massive amounts on the lottery and the traffic helped him moved other products off of the shelf. Research has shown that ZIP codes in the low-income parts of town spend four times more than anyone else. My own eyesight has witnessed that the majority of the people who fills the bingo halls, casinos and lottery lines are older people. Gambling of all forms is a tax on the poor. It’s interesting to note that 96 percent of those age 65 or older are BROKE.
Just think if my close relatives who individually spends roughly $375 per month on lottery, bingo, casinos and other forms of gambling for the past 30 years would have simply hid the money under a mattress today that monthly amount will equal $135,000. If they had invested the $375 each and every month in mutual funds earning an average rate of return of 10 percent for the past 30 years their money would have grown to $847,683.
The irony is that if they had saved and/or invested the money each and every month instead of gambling it away for the past 30 years and counting, today they will no longer be poor people. My wife and I at one time justified our casino and bingo activity as a form of entertainment. We began to watch how much we were spending and how much we were winning. It turns out that we were losing money in the name of entertainment. We’ve come to understand that it’s never fun or entertaining when you’re losing money.
(Mortgage and Money Coach Damon is the owner of ACE Financial. He can be reached at 412-856-1183.)