$338 million ticket: When parents buy and lose, their kids do too
A $338 million ticket was sold in New Jersey to someone who is probably celebrating. But within the families of losing ticket holders, a familiar sense of loss is settling in.
Somebody in New Jersey spent $2 on a Powerball lottery ticket and just won $338 million. As for the rest of the ticket holders, I hope they take home the valuable knowledge that gambling rarely pays a return and is a total loss in the parenting department.Skip to next paragraph
Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.
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Despite the probability of winning in Powerball being about one in 175 million, according to NBC News, people in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and the US Virgin Islands, bought tickets. We have a better chance of dying from a bee sting, one in 6.1 million, or death via lightning strike, one in 3 million. Indeed, sometimes lightening strikes lottery ticket holders. The Chicago Tribune reports that a 48-year-old “bought three lottery tickets, hoping to win the big jackpot which had grown to more than $600 million. After he bought the tickets, he jokingly said to a friend that he had a better chance of getting struck by lightning than winning. Unfortunately, he was right."
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Still, we build up hope, and the hope of our children, and continue to buy lottery tickets.
Therefore, rather than risk the proverbial lightning strike from on high, I will admit right up front that in the midst of financial distress, I personally did not resist the temptation to buy a ticket for the monster jackpot that preceded the most recent Powerball lottery.
I can count the number of times I have bought a ticket — twice— and both times at my husband’s urging due to our ongoing financial distress. That does not excuse my lack of judgment in the slightest. I realize that a penny saved is a penny earned and the $2 wasted on the lottery would have been far more effective in my youngest son’s piggy bank. How often as parents do we tell kids, “Do as I say, not as I do?” However, since I made the mistake twice and suffered the consequences, I feel like I have a bit more insight about a practice that has become widely accepted as a means of funding our public projects and even schools.
According to CBS News our dollars are baked into the fiscal pie as follows, “Revenue from that pie is divided in three ways: About 60 percent goes to prize winners; 15 percent to retailers, marketing and operations; and 25 percent, or about $14 billion, goes back to the states for government services.” That’s a huge chunk of change handed over to the country's coffers. It makes me feel as if we are sending the message to kids that government is run largely on a bet.
For my part I think that’s a poison pie. The sickness I felt at the loss of the ticket money and the destruction of my little fantasy that we'd win was magnified by the fact that my son, 9, was with me when I checked the ticket. You’d have thought I was smuggling drugs the way I sneaked over to the little scanner to see if the ticket was a winner while he was picking out a snack.
However, to a child, a sneaking mom is like a flare in the dark. He materialized at my side just as the machine lit up a phrase in blue: “This ticket is not a winner.” I instantly realized the massive, compounded error I’d made.
My son asked me, “So how does this work actually? Do they just give you the ticket for free or something?” No, I told him, you pay for the tickets. Then, at that moment, I felt the utter misery a parent feels after realizing they've done a bad job must find a way to reverse the damage ASAP.