January 05, 2011 | By: Laurie Campbell

2011: A sure thing or a gamble?

This may be hard to fathom, but in North America one out of every four people believe their best chance of getting rich is by playing the lottery. That’s according to one pundit I recently tripped over online.

If the claim is true, it’s shocking. And even if it’s only fractionally true, it’s still shocking. Say one in ten lottery players fit the psychological bill. That’s millions of people on the continent with their heads so high in the clouds one wonders if they’ll ever come back down to earth.
Think about the odds of winning the jackpot for, say, Lotto 6/49. There is a one in 14 million chance of winning for each set of numbers selected. How many people play the game – or what numbers they play – have no bearing on the chances. The odds remain the same for every ticket.
What do odds of this nature amount to? Well, a person who drives 10 miles to buy a lottery ticket is more likely to expire in a car accident than to be overcome with joy about a winning ticket.
Could it be that hordes of us in western society are losing our minds?
The point is that for all us going into 2011, the year can be one of realistic thinking and practical spending, or it can be a time in which childish fantasies, wishful thinking and unbridled neuroses make for troubled times.

Gambling as an addiction is no small matter. In Ontario, for example, tens of thousands of people experience moderate to severe gambling problems. And let’s be frank – many more freely spend gaming and gambling dollars that could otherwise be directed to important things in life.
“But wait,” comes a voice from the corner store, “I only spend $10 a week on the lotto!” Okay, and I say that’s more than $500 dollars a year you’re converting to pretty little pieces of paper.

Think about the sum in terms of clothing and school supplies for the kids, a much needed laptop computer, Christmas expenses, or the dent the money might make in the debt that is owed on a credit card. Not to mention, a $500 RRSP over 20 years brings a return of many thousands of dollars with compounded interest.

Please understand, I’m not saying lotteries and gaming are bad in and of themselves. What I’m trying to illustrate is the need for responsible, sober thinking in relation to personal spending.
If shelling out $500 a year on lotto tickets or other games in no way affects your finances, fine, have a little fun. As they say, you can’t win if you don’t play. On the other hand, if you play beyond your means, you’ve joined a long line up of guaranteed losers.

Of course, going cold turkey on ending even a minor gambling habit may be far easier said than done. So let me recommend this for all the die-hard risk takers out there who really shouldn’t be forking over cash for outlandish dreams.
If you’re spending 10 bucks a week on lotto tickets, try reducing the expenditure to two bucks a week and stick to the plan. You’ll still be in the game. And after all, what are the odds?


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