#404: Disco Bingo

November 26th, 2014

The card told her to scratch off all the 36es, so she did.

Then the 18s. And the 67s.

One by one, she wordlessly, ceaselessly searched out numbers in the eight five-by-five boxes on the instant lottery card and destroyed them, one by one, to see if she could get her $5 back and maybe a few hundred thousand bucks on top.

She was playing Disco Bingo on the #73 bus west past Western. You can win up to $200,000, the democratically elected government of Illinois tells the woman. There are $26.7 million in available prizes! If a winning pattern is revealed and includes two “musical notes,” the player will win DOUBLE the PRIZE for that card, the state tells the lady on the bus.

She scratches off the numbers the “Callers Card” section of the lottery ticket tells her to. 45. 58. 46. 46.

The Illinois Lottery website, which I will not be linking to, has a glittery silver top hat on one of the rotating carousel slots. Glitz and glamor and “New Year’s MILLIONAIRE RAFFLE.”

A few seconds later, the top hat glides away and the state tells you lotto tickets make the perfect Christmas gift. Then it tells you about the “Veterans Cash” tickets that give your gambling the moral high ground of helping veterans.

Two carousel slots later, the site tells you in fake news fonts how “Lora S. from Ridgeway won $250,000 playing veterans cash!”

I waste my money. I eat at restaurants when I could cook, run out for coffee when I’ve got hot water at home and buy comic book trade paperbacks when I could not buy comic book trade paperbacks because I’m a man in my 30s. I have no moral say over the woman on the bus now scratching 15s off a $5 card she purchased from the state.

But she purchased it from the state. It’s not Panera, Challengers Comics or any number of burger joints that cajole this woman to fork over a few bucks of cash for a few moments entertainment and an almost null chance of winning.

It’s her government.

No, it doesn’t benefit the schools. Of the 29 cents on the dollar that goes to schools (59 cents per dollar goes right back into someone else’s lotto prize), nothing is additional.

It’s money the state would already give schools. That 29 cents on the dollar is 29 cents the state doesn’t have to give the schools out of the property tax bills. It replaces money the state owes the schools.

I owe John $6. I get you to give me a dollar, telling you I’ll give it to John. I give him $6. But really I only paid $5 out of my own pocket. I just got you to chip in a buck of what I owed.

“…that is merely an accounting maneuver that actually reduces the amount of money that schools require from other state sources. Lottery profits themselves provide no additional funds for the schools,” sayth the Illinois Association of School Boards.

Now that 29 cents on the dollar (so $1.45 per Disco Bingo ticket from the lady scratching off 6s on the bus) isn’t coming from the property taxes landowners owe. It’s coming by choice from predominantly poor and, in Chicago, black and Hispanic people.

Because their government told them it would be fun to pay landowners’ taxes for them.

Maybe an economist can talk up a whirl around me and tell me it’s good that the state doesn’t have to hike property taxes so the landlords don’t have to hike rent so the Panera doesn’t have to hike the cost of the Dark Roast coffee I piss my money away on, one cup at a time.

But I don’t see that. I see an elderly Hispanic woman on a bus heading past Western, scratching away numbers the government told her to.

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