The Powerball Jackpot worth $144 million, won April 8, was claimed yesterday but not by the winner. Choosing to forgo his 15 minutes of fame, the winner sent his lawyer and the check was made out to a Limited-Liability Corporation so that the winner can remain anonymous.
This morning’s Washington Post reports that we do know the winner is an 82-year old widower with ten children and forty-seven grandchildren. We also know that he created three trusts with the winnings, one for his heirs’ education, one for their health care, and one for philanthropic endeavors. We may never know this man’s name but we know for certain that he may be the most deserving winner in the history of the lottery. Except of course for me.
That’s right. I play the lottery. Friends tease that it is my one white trash affectation. But I don’t play for affect. I play because it’s fun. This is what the anti-lottery people always forget. They call it a "tax on the poor" but sometimes I forget to buy my Lotto ticket and I am quite certain bad things would happen if I ever forgot to pay my taxes.
I once got into an argument with a woman at a dinner party at Ground Zero of the liberal elite, Cambridge, Massachusetts. She trotted out all the arguments against the lottery: It was a tax on the poor, it encouraged people to be wasteful, the money could be better spent. This last was the most obnoxious. By "better spent" she meant in a way that would make the poor more like her. When I pointed out that most people play because it is fun, she seemed baffled, as if it had never occurred to her as a reason to play.
The fun, in fact, lies in not winning. This 82-year old winner now has to monitor his LLC, explain to his heirs why they can’t just take the money and run, etc. The fun comes before the drawing. For a buck or two, you get to fantasize about what you would do if you did win. How much would you put away? How much would you give to the Church? (I think half is about right.) Where would you go to celebrate and whom would you invite?
I could, like the woman in Cambridge, only indulge other people’s fantasies at the movies and the opera house. In fact, one of her children makes movies but I prefer my lottery fantasies to his motion picture fantasies. His characters never give a million dollars to complete the restoration of the San Jose Church in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, the second oldest and (I believe) most beautiful church in the Western hemisphere that has been closed for years due to its prior deterioration. His characters do not spoil my Dad with a hired-hand to help mow the lawn. His characters do not build a beautiful home in the country, in fact, their sense of beauty is profoundly limited and, well, white trashy.
The Church teaches that gambling can be a problem but I think the lottery is the hardest to get addicted to precisely because the odds are so long. I have a highly addictive personality, and I have never once gone to the two huge casinos, a half hour from my home in Connecticut, to gamble, only for dinner. Not a penny. But, the lottery is a poor man’s fantasy. And, you feel lucky if you get two numbers let alone six, so the chances of getting ridiculously addicted are slim. It’s fun, nothing more and nothing less. Except for an 82-year old in Washington who must be a very dignified man to resist the lure of the cameras. Congrats, sir, whoever you are.