To win or to lose …

First Posted: 8/25/2009

Imagine sitting in front of the television, pulling your lottery ticket out of your pocket and eagerly awaiting the announcement of the nights lottery drawing.
It is a scene Im sure was repeated in thousands, maybe millions, of households this past week as the Powerball jackpot surpassed the $250 million mark.
Then, imagine sitting there, as one number, a second number, and all of those following match up perfectly with the winning numbers reported.
I think I might would have passed out in shock, or screamed in excitement, or who knows, because I dont buy lottery tickets.
One man in South Carolina became the lucky one this week. He is now the winner of $260 million, while millions of other lottery ticket purchasers in 30 states are jealous and wished the cash would have gone to them.
There have been other winners of amounts like $10,000 or $30,000, which is a substantial amount to win, in my opinion, as well.
Heck, if I had to pay half of $10,000 back in taxes, then I could still pay off my credit card bill, with hardly anything left over for play money.
But then, I dont buy lottery tickets.
Its not because I have some moral objection to playing the lottery or gambling. I have bought raffle tickets from people at times, but Ive never won a thing. After a while, you get kind of down when you keep putting money out for things and never win. Of course, raffle tickets are a little different than lottery tickets or casinos, because you know the money is going to a nonprofit organization or to help someone pay their medical bills, etc.
Im not sure why Ive never bought a lottery ticket. I guess its because Im not exactly sure how playing goes and what I need to do, and I feel stupid asking someone at the counter with other people around waiting to pay for gas or food or a ticket of their own.
I have been to Harrahs Casino in Cherokee. I went shortly after the casino opened when I was at college in the nearby mountains.
A few friends and I loaded up in the car, with a little cash, and drove the 45-minute trip to Harrahs.
Unlike some, I didnt have much money I could afford to lose, being in college and all. So I took in $5. Thats right, just $5.
I decided to first play the slot machines, because those are easy and no one has to explain the rules to you. I won about $20 or $30 in quarters on the machines, which included trying out the video poker or blackjack video machines, I cant remember which ones I played. (Its been a while since college.)
But then, in the effort to earn even more money, the $20 or $30 I won all went back into the machines, and I walked out of the casino short the money I won as well as the $5 I took in.
It could have been worse, much worse, because those machines take credit cards, which means someone could sit there for hours racking up a credit card bill or spending out cash from their account using a debit card, and leaving them broke.
Its dangerous, because gambling can be just as addictive as nicotine, drugs, alcohol and shopping for some.
I was lucky. Ive always been more of a shopper than a gambler. I like knowing Im getting something tangible for my money spent, not just sending it off to people who are already extremely rich in the form of a slot machine or poker table.
Thats not to say I wouldnt try my luck again some time, but Im not likely to sit there for hours on end losing money.
I like to win. Dont you?
Wendy Byerly Wood is the associate editor of The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at [email protected]

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