OPINION – The rules are this: If you want to win, you’ve got to play.
For most people, at least in 42 states, that’s not a problem.
But, if you live in Utah and you’re feeling lucky and think you can overcome the 1-in-175 million odds to win a Powerball jackpot, you’d better think road trip because the game simply isn’t played here and with the current closed-mindedness that makes the Beehive State Legislature behave the way it does, a Utah lottery has but a snowball’s chance in hell of ever coming to fruition.
I remember attending a town meeting a few years back when Utah lawmakers gathered in St. George to discuss pressing issues. As usual, the budget was a huge concern, particularly when it came to funding for education. With furrowed brows and saddened faces, the gathered lawmakers, who were participating in a Paul Revere run the length of the state to meet with taxpayers, talked about the tough decisions as they tried to figure which programs to cut, which programs to eliminate, and which would survive, even meagerly.
I asked why they didn’t consider instituting a Utah lottery as a way to feed the kitty.
In a millisecond, faces turned bright red and flames shot out of the ears of the lawmakers who went nearly apoplectic in dismissing the notion as if it came from Satan himself. The spouting and spewing from the red-faced legislators bordered on comical as they raced through a litany of the evils of a lottery, the immorality of a lottery, the unsavory aspects of a lottery, as if it was being run like a neighborhood numbers racket in a backstreet bar on the south side of Chicago.
It got to the point where the legislators finally said that a lottery just didn’t fit with the morals of the people who reside in the state of Utah. I asked if any one of them ever drove past the Beaver Dam Station and Bar, run by my dear friend Bonnie, and noticed all of the Utah license plates on the cars parked out front when the Powerball or Arizona Lottery jackpot was surging. Most of them reacted as if they never heard of Beaver Dam while the others growled and snarled.
The fact is, however, the store and bar sell an average of $4,500 in lottery tickets daily. Last Saturday? They sold $26,000 worth of lottery tickets.
Then I asked if they were aware that the California Lottery puts about $1 billion into the education budget annually and has done so since it was started in 1984, which provoked even more growling and snarling and a comparison, I’m pretty sure, to the school taking money from a Colombian drug lord. Or, at least something like that, which is why Utah, according to the Casinocity.com website, is one of only four states in the Union — Hawaii, Vermont, and Tennessee are the others — that offer no form of gambling, whether it be a lottery system, horse racing, casinos, or dog races. I guess what happens in the grandstands at the Beaver County horse races doesn’t count.
It all comes to mind as I look through the news reports that the one and only winning ticket to last weekend’s Powerball drawing was purchased at a liquor store in Passaic, New Jersey.
The ticket is worth $338 million; however, if the owner of that ticket cashes it in and elects to take his winnings in one lump sum, the payout, after taxes, would be $152 million. Even I could get by on that, and I’ll bet you could, too.
I mean, seriously, haven’t we all daydreamed about what we would do with such a windfall; what we would do for our family, what we would indulge ourselves with, which charitable organizations we would favor. You could do a lot of good with that kind of money, with plenty remaining to live a very comfortable lifestyle.
Go ahead, take a moment and think what you would do if you came into that kind of money.
I’m sure our school administrators also daydream about what life would be like if there was enough money in the Utah treasury to boost funding from the bottom of the pile to a more reasonable level, which our kids deserve.
But, until our Legislature frees itself from the shackles that influence its decisions — from issues as ridiculously embarrassing as the Zion Curtain drinking law to, well, instituting a lottery — all we can do is daydream.
Or, make a run for the border when the jackpot is too enticing to ignore.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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