May 06, 2007
The fifty-dollar scratch-off game

There are things in this life whose appeal completely eludes me. Things like broccoli. Kenny Chesney. Fifty-dollar lottery tickets.

That's the price of the state's newest scratch-off game, dubbed $130 Million Spectacular, which goes on sale Monday and offers nearly $134 million in prizes, including three grand prizes of $5 million.

A $50 game is the highest price for a scratch-off in the nation, according to lottery data. Kansas introduced the first $50 ticket two years ago and Michigan also will launch one on Monday. Compare that to California, where the most expensive scratch-off ticket is $5. In New York, it's $20.

Officials in Texas evidently believe their new game will do well; they're printing 3.7 million of the $50 tickets and are planning to soon introduce a second $50 game.


The [Texas Lottery] offered its first $3 scratch-off in 1997. By 2000, it had a $10 game; a $20 game in 2002 and a $30 game in 2004. Last year, $1 scratch-off tickets accounted for just 11 percent of all scratch-off sales, while nearly a third came from tickets priced between $10 and $30.

The $50 game comes with a 63 percent chance of losing.

Those odds won't deter Mike Swain, 44, a driver for a moving company who picked up $4 worth of scratch-offs in East Austin this week.

"I'll try it. I definitely could try it once. Sometimes I have $50 extra," he said.

I can think of about a million things I'd rather blow an extra $50 on. I try, I really do, to see other perspectives on things I don't like or agree with. On this one, I'm coming up blank.

Gerald Busald, a math professor at San Antonio College who analyzes lottery practices, had this advice for those itching to wager 50 bucks on a single ticket: Don't.

"You can have the same dream for $1 that you can for $20 or $30 or $50," he said. "You're not going to win."

Yeah. If I were ever to get the urge to waste a little money on the Lottery, it'd be on Lotto Texas, when the jackpot were really big. And it'd only be a dollar, so I'd only feel a dollar's worth of foolishness when I lost.

One last thing:

William Scott, 64, a custodian in Austin who works two jobs and said he often spends $120 a day on lottery games, is eager to try his luck on the $50 game. "I play all of them."

I presume, or at least I hope like hell, that Mr. Scott doesn't spend $120 every day on the lottery. Because if he did, I'd imagine the $43,800 he was dropping on his habit is more than he earns at his second job. I'd guess that even factoring in wins on the lottery and taxes on the additional salary, he'd be losing out. But maybe that's just me.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 06, 2007 to Jackpot!

I sold Ohio lottery tickets as a part-time job while in college in Cincinnati. The lottery is a lousy thing for a government to inflict on the public. People unable to afford the lottery are the people who play the lottery and the odds are worse than awful.

When my father started taking me to Narragansett Downs in Rhode Island 35 years ago, the only legal action was at the track. The track was open only when it was open,you had to get to East Providence if you wanted to go and a race was staged every 30 minutes or so.

Now you can bet on every track in the country when you visit Sam Houston, you can buy lottery tickets of all kinds in many different locations and casinos are spreading.

Many things taking place in our society will be out ruin. The spread of gambling is one of those things.

Posted by: Texas Liberal on May 6, 2007 2:09 PM

State governments regulate or outlaw commercial gambling, yet participate and profit from the protected market they create for themselves. By and large, state run lotteries are the most widely available form of legal gambling. Gambling laws are crafted with the purpose of giving the state unfair competitive advantages over privately owned venues.

It's no wonder that the state feels threatened so much by online wagering that they strive to outlaw it again and again. Can't have the free market encroaching on state owned "turf" now, can we?

When the proceeds of gambling are used for collective state "benefit" it effectively becomes a tax. And it's a horribly regressive tax that impacts the economically disadvantaged the most.

IMHO, the state should neither prohibit nor participate in the gambling industry.

Posted by: bob on May 6, 2007 4:27 PM

I'm buying one tomorrow and winning.:)

Posted by: Crystal on May 8, 2007 12:25 AM

sorry to disagree but the lottery is not always a bad thing. in tennessee parts of it go to help education for college and vocational schools. besides you shouldnt be playing to get rich you should only do it if you can afford it and for fun. plus even if you dont win knowing you helped someone pay for college is a great feeling. hell if it werent for the tennessee lottery i'd be paying off loans right now for school but instead i went to school for free and became a great nurse, so just keep that in mind before you knock it. and those who are broke and even broker because they continue to play lottery when they cant afford it, its their own fault not one held them at gunpoint to play

Posted by: Andrea on May 10, 2007 9:35 PM