Lottery dilutes middle-class habits

Two things up front about the Georgia Lottery.

One is that it exists as a tax on those believed to pay no taxes. It’s a consumption tax levied on the unsophisticated. It’s the rent they pay for government.

The second observation about the Georgia Lottery is that its beneficiaries are the middle class, the families that once socked away a few dollars each week to pay for the college expenses of newborn babies.

It was one generation’s investment in the next.

I’ve never been a fan for two reasons.

One is that it tempts the poor to engage in behaviors that are harmful to their families.
The second is that it tempts the middle class to engage in behaviors that are harmful to their families.

With the poor, the temptation is to take money they can’t afford to lose and put it in an investment with odds against them of 175 million to one.

A woman without a job for six months and, as the AJC’s Bill Torpy reported last month, with “a car note and mortgage nipping at her heels,” stops at an Atlanta convenience store to buy $10 Extreme Green scratch-offs, spending about $100 a week.

People are entitled to spend their money any way they see fit, and desperate people see enough oversized checks with big numbers in lottery-winner photo ops to convince them that dire circumstances warrant such Hail Mary “investments.”

And yet, while we can gin up our rawest and most virulent indignation at “predatory lenders” who put the working poor in mortgages that they can’t afford, we think nothing ill of a state-owned enterprise that does something worse.

And why? Because we are beneficiaries of the loot taken from the poor. The big bonuses are not going to securities traders, but to the middle class in the form of HOPE stipends.
The lottery has changed, for the worse, the habits of the middle class, too. Before it was created in 1993, the middle class knew that individual family sacrifice was necessary to fund the burden that college represented. Immediate pleasures — a meal out, a newer car — were put off to set aside money for a distant expense.

In taking money from Mom and Dad, there were faces and known sacrifices connected to the tuition money.

Then came the Georgia Lottery.

The Athens Banner-Herald’s Lee Shearer quizzed students at the University of Georgia for a weekend story noting that by 2011, gambling revenues may be inadequate to fund all HOPE expenses.

They could, egads, be forced to turn to their own resources — a part-time job or family savings — to pay part or all of the $300 book allowance and, if things get worse, they could lose the money that goes to cover mandatory fees.

Since 1999-2000, the cost of the program has grown from $207 million to $500 million.
When asked how much HOPE paid for their education, students had no clue. The amount is not shown on their tab.

It is an entitlement, like welfare or Medicaid, without connection between those who sacrifice and those who benefit.

The Georgia Lottery Corp. board meets Thursday. It is under pressure to permit casino gambling in Underground Atlanta so that the middle class will not be forced to make choices between a vacation and their offspring’s college expenses.

The poor and the addicted are getting tapped out on the old scratch-offs and Mega Millions. Underground operators are counting on the middle class to ride to their rescue.
The board doesn’t have Underground on their agenda. But they should now, this week, call the question: Will Georgia open its doors to casino gambling?

138 comments Add your comment


April 28th, 2009
9:30 am

I’m sick of all this “we must protect them from themselves” attitude. If someone CHOOSES to buy lottery tickets rather than pay their car note, that’s their choice. They are adults free to succeed or fail. And “predatory lenders”? There is no such thing. EVERY salesperson is trying to get as much of your money into their pocket as they can. Besides, if you can’t be bothered to pre-read and understand your mortgate contract then you deserve what you get. Predatory my big fat @ss.

JIm's a Cherry Picker

April 28th, 2009
9:36 am

Et Tu, Jimbo? A vote for the Nanny State?
Going soft in your pre retirement days.

Big Bucks GOP

April 28th, 2009
9:42 am

A trustee overseeing the liquidation of Wall Street swindler Bernard L.
Madoff’s assets has announced a winning bid of potentially more than
$25 million for the securities-trading operation he ran.

Big Bucks GOP

April 28th, 2009
9:43 am

Shares of Bank of America and Citigroup fell in European trading
Tuesday, as investors reacted to a report in The Wall Street Journal
that United States regulators have told the banks that they may need to
raise more capital following the government’s stress tests.

Big Bucks GOP

April 28th, 2009
9:45 am

With municipal bond investigations spreading to Europe from the United
States, Italian authorities have seized about $300 million in assets of
four global banks — JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, UBS and Depfa –
whose officials have been accused of fraud,

Big Bucks GOP

April 28th, 2009
9:48 am

The Securities and Exchange Commission has about 150 ongoing hedge fund
investigations, including inquiries into alleged Ponzi schemes and
misappropriations, S.E.C. chief Mary Schapiro said.

Big Bucks GOP

April 28th, 2009
9:50 am

The Securities and Exchange Commission has temporarily frozen assets
controlled by Danny Pang, a money manager in Newport Beach, Calif., who
the agency contends defrauded investors out of hundreds of millions of
dollars in a scheme that began in 2003.

Northern Songs Ltd

April 28th, 2009
9:53 am

No one is forcing anyone to buy anything. There is a big differnece between predatory lending, and a scratch off ticket or a mega-million quik pick.


April 28th, 2009
9:53 am

It is not a REAL casino if they don’t have craps tables, those bogus indian bingo psodo girly slot machine dives are weak.

Seven of Nine

April 28th, 2009
10:04 am

Jim is a nanny stater on his own issues – the lottery, sex, paving the entire state. Notice many, if not most of his regulars, have already retired.


April 28th, 2009
10:06 am

A State monopoly in any business is bad. State-monopolized gambling is no different. The HOPE “scholarship” system has also created middle-class entitlement to inflated grades. Exploiting stupid people excites right-wing jerks so much they fail to see how it’s biting them in the a%$.

Wow, Jim, I think your impending job change is doing you some good. Doesn’t it feel great to be free of expectations? You can exercise common sense instead of barfing out rhetoric. Bravo.


April 28th, 2009
10:06 am

I invest in a MegaMillions quick pick about twice a month. I’d love to be reaping the benefits of the HOPE, but alas, my daugther decided to spend her first two years of high school goofing off.

Redneck Convert

April 28th, 2009
10:08 am

Well, if you got to have colledge, and I say you don’t, you might as well get Those People to pay for it. The decent, hardworking taxpayers get a little break on the taxes they might have to pay without the lottery and the lazy bums that sponge off of our taxes fork over the bucks to send a good redneck boy to colledge. It’s the best thing old Zell ever done.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t beleive much in colledge. Too many colledges take a good Right-thinking redneck boy and turn him into a raging librul. But once in a while it don’t take. So you get colledge-educated rednecks like old Sonny that knows the answer to problems is prayer and can’t be talked into the librul way of thinking by a bunch of colledge perfessers.

So I agree with Wooten people need to save for what they want to buy. But that don’t mean we can’t put more of the cost of what we need on the people that don’t put out nothing in the first place. If they got the money to play the lottery they got the money to pay for peoples colledge.

That’s my opinion and it’s very true. Have a good day everybody.


April 28th, 2009
10:08 am

Seven of Nine – Jim wants Big Gubmint out of HIS life, but wants it firmly ensconced in YOUR life.

And yeah, it’s quite obvious that Jim’s biggest sycophants have disappeared…


April 28th, 2009
10:09 am

Let’s have some sand in the gears of this blog, shall we? How about, some self-righteous poacher who daily posts midmorning business reports to his liking?

Oh, sorry, I forgot. We already are inflicted with that.

Well then, how about a long interruptive string of sports stories, or a force-fed treatment of celebrity journalism every morning at about ten o’clock? Automotive stories, one after the other, perhaps? How about homemaking or consumer reporting or trendsetting?

Choose your preferred daily interruption? Not.

Instead, you get the anti-WSJ whether you like it or not.

The AJC is determined to save the souls of every one of us who’ve killed our subscriptions as a result of its having made, some time ago, an editorial choice to side with a failed and increasingly unpopular ideology, Smartassdom, libstyle.


April 28th, 2009
10:11 am

Is it not contradictory when gambling is looked upon to replace a real economy in a state that still frowns on buying a six pack on Sunday?


April 28th, 2009
10:15 am

Nanny state indeed. Why is Mr. Wooten’s nose always in other people’s business? Where are the “conservative” values of individualism and non-interference? Is Mr. Wooten trying to send a child to college right now, and can’t because the child’s grades don’t merit Hope money? Did Mr. Wooten suddenly become concerned about the state of education in Georgia, and now wants to help bring the education level of our populace UP? Or is it his fervent hope that the average level of Georgia citizens’ education DROP EVEN FURTHER, for some reason he is about to share with us?


April 28th, 2009
10:27 am

Good point RetLTC. You would think the same crowd that fights tooth and nail over six packs on Sunday would be howling long and loud over Casino style gambling.


April 28th, 2009
10:28 am

once again, I am confused. while I agree the State has no business in the gambling business (and probably LESS business in the education business); I fail to see how any state-sponsored gaming enterprise is any different than the de-regulation of the derivities market, which as we all now know, turned Wall Street into a de facto casino for a handful of gamblers (who were playing with house money). in fact, I would argue that with the GA lottery, at least you know the odds (150 million to 1) and YOU choose to play or not to play. those of us who judiciously invested in our homes or the stock market have been asked to pay the tabs of a handful of reckless, self-serving gamblers who placed bets with OUR money.


April 28th, 2009
10:29 am

Maybe we should strike while the iron is hot and go for the trifecta. Casino style gambling in Underground, legalized prostitution, and beer on Sunday. I’m deluding myself aren’t I. The beer on Sunday would be a deal killer.


April 28th, 2009
10:30 am

Good morning, Jim

You’re becoming quite the moralist lately, fulminating against unwed mothers, gambling, and people acting like people. The conservatives have all but destroyed the middle class, yet you presume that there is still a “middle class morality,” like the one you think might have existed in the 40s and 50s. More and more, you want to get government involved in setting moral standards, but you don’t want government to do the job that it is supposed to be doing. It’s an interesting contradiction in your thinking, but I suspect that your desire to tell everyone else how to live their lives is as much a function of your political entanglements as your personal moral standards. The HOPE scholarship program is not equivalent to “welfare and medicaid,” which are funded by taxes. If we do away with the HOPE program, how would we educate the people we need for our future at a time when college costs are rising precipitiously and the Governor’s Scholarship program has been killed? The answer is easy, although conservatives get so tangled in their ideology that they can never see the obvious: raise taxes, especially on businesses and the rich and pay for scholarships out of tax monies, just as we do welfare and Medicaid. Maybe we would then have a “middle class” again, even though I don’t think you really want one. I think you and the rest of the conservatives are very happy with a two class society: the very rich and the uneducated very poor.

RC Cola and a Moon Pie

April 28th, 2009
10:35 am

I’ve got 10 middle class dollars that will be dropping into a convenience store cash register tonight to win my $181MegaLarge… i’m a right-leaner, and i’ll spend my money on whatever my wife allows me to…


April 28th, 2009
10:35 am

Dear Jim Wooten,

I understand quite well what you are saying. You yearn for the days when citizens thought they were to pay their own way in all things. “Relief” was a disgrace. Independence was treasured.

Now relief is supposed to come from government or from lucky winning of wealth. Personal saving is seen as a credit card debt you can pay eventually.

Perhaps Zell Miller saw the changes and decided that the only hope was to educate children and pay for it any way possible. The Lottery was the best possibility. He did not see the possibilites of changes in rules of receiving.

Teachers began to raise grades to get students enrolled. Parents with funds realized that they did not have to pay if their child was enrolled in Hope. Students entered college who would never have been accepted with their usual grade average. Many did not stay to finish their education even with all the help that could be extended to them. Some students claimed that “teaching” was not good .(See article by recent UGA grad in Sunday’s paper.)

Now casino gambling is suggested for ADDITIONAL FUNDS . For education!! Oh yes. And for the people who run the casinos and the funds. As has been said here, let the people “throw their money away”. Let fools be fools if they wish it that way. Throw temptation in front of them and say “go for it”.

I’m against that. But I do wish for good education for those who yearn for it, who will work for it, and who show some ability to gain it. Otherwise, we might just stand at the high school door and hand out money to Seniors. But that is just about what we are doing now and to hell with independence.


April 28th, 2009
10:36 am

A minor point, but deserving of emphasis:

“Those believed to pay no taxes.”

By whom? The notion that the poor “don’t pay taxes” is exclusively found among the propagandists of the extreme right and their brainless followers.


April 28th, 2009
10:38 am

The HOPE has done wonders for UGA and a little exposure to college for those grade-inflated APS kids is also a good thing. I like the lottery terminals in Underground idea, get a little out-of-state money into the pot.


April 28th, 2009
10:40 am

I was at a convience store a few weeks back when a shabbily dressed woman with two children in front of me handed the clerk $12. She wanted 10 scratch off tickets and $2 worth of gas.

Yet I still think we should not do away with the lottery. These are the same people who live day to day, and they would just throw the money away on something else.


April 28th, 2009
10:45 am

I personally think that the Hope program has dropped the value of a college degree by flooding the market with unqualified, highly entitled kids who were given their grades out of high school so that they would qualify for free school later. I paid for my own education before the hope and I see a definate change in the quality of graduates after the Hope. DOWN! The business world now simply asks for an advanced degree make sure that the new crop of candidates can walk and chew gum at the same time. Bottom line here, where there is no self sacrifice, there is no dscipline!


April 28th, 2009
10:49 am

You are wrong that at UGA the Hope Scholarship is not shown on their tab. It is. I am looking at a statement from this past August, and it says “Hope Scholarship 08-09 payment.” The students the Athens-Banner Herald asked just probably never go look at the details online. If they aren’t living on campus and don’t use the meal plan, the only expenses on their account are tuition and fees. They get an e-mail that shows they have an amount due. Then either they or their parents pay it and don’t look at the account statement. I can send you a copy of what shows on their account if you would like.


April 28th, 2009
10:53 am

It is true that the poor, uneducated, and irresponsible pay this voluntary tax more than others. In general, it is those that don’t have it to spend that end up spending it anyway. It is because of their lack of fiscal discipline to begin with that has caused their plight, and continued fiscal irresponsibility that caused them to continue to waste money on the lottery. That point is well taken, but not necessarily a reason to do away with the lottery. It is just an unfortunate result of having a lottery.

On the other hand, while the lottery has made tuition an option where there was no option before, or made college more affordable and less of a burden for parents whose kids were going to go anyway, it has driven up attendance and driven up costs in general. It has made it more expensive for <3.0 students that don’t qualify for HOPE to attend, and this is the biggest travesty of it.


April 28th, 2009
10:55 am

Of course Mr. Wooten left out the part about state universities increasing their tuitions, knowing that the costs were being passed on to Hope and out of state students.


April 28th, 2009
11:01 am


Your points are almost subtle and for the most part I agree with you.


April 28th, 2009
11:04 am

Yep – Lots of those unqualified kids don’t get a degree, they flunk out after a year or two. In part , that’s because the watered-down programs at most high schools don’t adequately prepare kids for college level work. But that’s also a result of Bush’s NCLB, which forces schools to devote a lot of resources to the less capable students.


April 28th, 2009
11:07 am

Shawny – Approximately 99.7% of the kids that can’t make a 3.0 in Georgia high schools don’t belong in college anyway, they belong in beautician school.


April 28th, 2009
11:18 am

@Jake, you’re a nasty fellow, because that’s so true and, more importantly, because you say it.

But yet how confident are you that the ones who “belong in college” are the ones who indeed belong there? Do you reverence the College Board, then, and the accuracy of its tests?

How many of the ones rejected do you suppose might perform better than, and persist longer than, the ascendant ones designated by Princeton as mostly likely to ascend and prosper? If you’re the kind of liberal you say you are, then I’ve got to wonder: How comfortable are you with money-making concerns deciding which young individuals are fit to run the State’s affairs?


April 28th, 2009
11:22 am

This is the first article of yours that I agree with totally and fully. Zell Miller’s lottery is one of the worst things the Legislature ever produced. It is simply an exorbitant tax levied on the poor class so the upper classes will have free state money for their children’s education. I have opposed it from the very beginning.


April 28th, 2009
11:25 am


You presume. You’re presumtous. Worse than that, you’re morally presumptuous.

Yet, at the same time, I’m sure you know better than the rest.


April 28th, 2009
11:39 am

Great perspective Jim. I remeber when the “Bible Belt” vowed never to succomb to the evil wiles of a lottery. Georgia has not only embraced it, but now they want to become more Vegas like with the placement of slot machines downtown. What a scam! I still do not understand why one can get their gambling vice on anytime, but you can’t buy a bottle of wine on Sunday. These types of issues contoniue to expose GA and its leaders as the ultimate hippocrites.


April 28th, 2009
11:48 am


In theology the term “ultimate hypocrites” is oxymoronic.


April 28th, 2009
11:55 am

Dementia has officially set in…If the lottery existed only because “poor” people played it, there would be no lottery.


April 28th, 2009
11:58 am

So we cheered the raising of the cigarette tax because that protected the “poor” from themselves and their dirty habits. Now we need to protect the “poor” from themselves again because they are habitial gamblers who are paying for our children’s education. Hmmmm……….it makes me think of my mother in law, a retired doctor, who spends over a $100 a week on tickets. I guess I need to step in a make sure she’s aware that she has a “problem” and help pull her out of “poverty”.


April 28th, 2009
12:06 pm

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is reportedly switching from the Repubs to the Dems in the Senate.

This gives the Dems 59 Senators and Al Franken (D-MN) will give the Dems 60 Senators, a veto proof majority.

Is the GOP and the conservatives coming unglued?


April 28th, 2009
12:17 pm

Correction: Are the GOP and the conservatives coming unglued?

One Voice

April 28th, 2009
12:26 pm

Arlen Specter is now a Democrat:

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing for the Dems because a more liberal Democrat would probably have been elected there next year. Now Specter will probably hold his seat with the help of independents and an overwhelming majority of Democrats. Hmmm…


April 28th, 2009
12:28 pm

The Nanny state argument is a bit much…the lottery was created to be a nanny for families that should pay for their own education. Why is it a function of government to decide who should or how one should pay for college?

Why not sell crack to pay for our kid’s college? It’s a bit extreme, but illustrates the point. Exploiting greed or more so, stupidity, regardless of the target isn’t exactly a just way of securing benefits for yourself, lawful or not.

The lottery is always defending as “for the children.” It isn’t, it is for the parents, absolving parents from their duty to provide for their children. Does it get more Nanny than that?

Kudos Jim.


April 28th, 2009
12:37 pm

Specter switching is a good thing. If he gets reelected, he can’t be as bad as more liberal democrat that might otherwise have that seat. He is pretty middle of the road. If he doesn’t get reelected, then we get a senator that will (presumably) be more conservative. That is what we call a win-win scenario.

I Report, You Bedwet

April 28th, 2009
12:39 pm

“The notion that the poor “don’t pay taxes” is exclusively found among the propagandists of the extreme right and their brainless followers”

Copywrong – a 5th grader can look up on the IRS website who pays what in federal income taxes. Now, if you want to talk about the poor paying taxes, they DO do it on the local level: beer, cigarettes, and the real tax on the poor, the lottery. Don’t let the facts cloud your pretty rose colored glasses, you mindless hysteric liberal.

Arlen Sphincter belonged to the Democrats long ago. Any other pushover want to go join him? Hatch? You Dimwitcrats have have them all. Let’s REALLY drain the swamp of useless so-called Republicans and get real the real deal back in there. We’ve had it up to here with these Dem @ss-kissing Rinos. Time and time and TIME AGAIN it is proven that Republicans bending over for Dimocrats has done ZERO for themselves or the Republican party in general. Drain the swamp alright – drain the swamp of useless Republicans.

By the way, now that the Democrats control EVERYTHING, why are the liberals still angry? Why are they becoming even MORE shrill? MORE hate-filled towards Conservatives and Republicans? Does anyone have a logical explanation for this?

In the mean time, let’s just sit back and watch this arrogant, incompetent White House Administration act the fool. Gibbs can’t even answer a question without fumblilng “uh, errr, uh, bbbbut, uuuhhhmmmmm…” and when Obama’s teleprompter jacks up, it’s hilarious: “move it forward please, I’ve already intruduced these people.” LMAO.

And the irony of the week is the White House telling AF1 to go fly around the WTC area for a photo up, scaring the HELL out of everyone. This administration is all about the image. The irony? This is the same administration up in arms and releasing sensitive CIA intelligence on how we interrogate terrorists. The White House did a DAMN good job of terrorizing New Yorkers yesterday. What morons.

Finally, the pinwheel spinning libDims are upset that Fox News is not going to air The Teleprompter Speech on his first 100 days. The liberal media and their mindless minions are all mad at Fox now. WHO CARES? These people HATE Fox News anyway. To hell with what they think. And for irony #2, guess what FoxNews is going to air in the Teleprompter Speech?

“The network will instead carry its regularly scheduled episode “Lie to Me,” according to its Web site. The show is among the network’s most popular and draws an average of 13 million viewers a week. That compares to the relatively paltry 4.2 million who watched the president’s last prime-time press conference on Fox. In all, close to 40 million watched that event on one of the eight networks that carried it.”


KISS system

April 28th, 2009
12:40 pm

Jackie-I think Spector saw the writing on the wall.There is speculation within the PA republican party that he was not going to be the party’s choice this coming election. Changing sides he knew was his only chance of continuing his political career. So much for sticking with principles. I for one and happy to see him go.


April 28th, 2009
1:01 pm

Allen, Jim et al – Let’s create responsible citizens by having their parents pay for their education instead of the government sponsored lottery? That isn’t exactly my definition of being self-reliant. Twenty-five years ago I worked my way through UGA. Next Fall my daughter will start there financed with a combination of Zell’s HOPE, Obama’s Pell grant increases and a little help from Dad. Does that mean our society or my daughter’s character is somehow diminshed? I don’t think so.


April 28th, 2009
1:04 pm

Bedwetter: As usual when you get all your info from right-wing sites, you’re wrong.

Fox News IS broadcasting the President’s speech; the Fox NETWORK AFFILIATE is not.

Geez, have you EVER been right? I mean, about anything?


April 28th, 2009
1:08 pm

Everydayjane put it very well. I keep hearing how the poor are spending all their money on the lottery. Other than anecdotal, where’s the evidence the lottery is financed by the poor?