COLUMBIA — Here’s some investment advice, absolutely free for you to use to build your personal wealth: Do not throw away your money in the lottery.

Yes, I know that’s not a particularly brilliant insight, but it is true and would be beneficial to untold thousands of Mississippians who are about to see their real incomes decrease for purchasing useful items (you know, bread, gas, light bills, etc.) because of the lottery.

After more than two decades of rejecting that particular form of gambling — thanks to a motley crew of opposition made up of church and casino interests — the state Legislature finally approved a lottery in a 2018 special session. Profits — after paying out winning tickets and administrative and advertising expenses — will go toward roads until 2028 and then revert back to the state’s general fund.

After months of planning, tickets went on sale for the first time the week of Thanksgiving. This is something of a soft opening because it will only feature the state’s four ticket options — a $1 ticket (“3 Times Lucky”), two $2 options (“Happy Holidays Y’all” and “Triple 777”) and a $5 choice (“$100,000 Jackpot”). The more popular games with the larger payouts like Powerball and Mega Millions are planned to be offered for sale beginning Jan. 30.

People are apparently excited about the prospect of gambling away more of their incomes. The state lottery’s website has a picture of two people celebrating and says, “Y’all get your winning pose ready!”

Yes, some people certainly do win. Lottery organizers know exactly how much they have to pay out to keep people buying tickets.

But in the long run, the average lottery player is going to lose money or else there wouldn’t be anything left over for roads. Yet there’s no “losing pose” that lottery players can adopt; it’s more of a slow, almost imperceptible reduction of resources for those who are usually struggling to make it anyway.

If you have a large expendable income, go at it. Buy lottery tickets if you want. That’s your business.

But I don’t think there are just a whole lot of people in that category in Mississippi today. Most of us are doing our best to pay bills and buy food.

So if you’re an average Joe, and especially if you have children in your home, please do not whittle away your finances on lottery tickets. It is an illusion: The prospect of making it big quickly draws you in but leaves you broke in the end.

Yes, Mississippians certainly have crossed into adjacent states in the past to buy lottery tickets. Here in Marion County, where we border Louisiana, which has had a lottery since 1991, residents no doubt buy tickets there from time to time.

But that’s mainly been when a huge jackpot has built up nationally that gets a lot of attention. People aren’t running for the state line daily to buy lottery tickets.

Yet now every day when they’re buying gas, they’re going to see that temptation. Many don’t have the willpower or financial savvy to resist. It’s sad, and it will hurt lives in what is already the poorest state in the union. More addicted gamblers, more debt, more bankruptcies, more fraud.

That the Legislature is so cynical to build roads off the backs of such people — rather than doing the obvious thing of funding highways through a gas tax on the people who use them — says it all about Mississippi’s leadership these days.

Yet it’s true that you have complete control of whether you jump into the cycle of problems caused by a lottery or not. Make up your mind not to do it. If you just have to do something with that money, give more to your retirement fund or your church or your favorite charity. You’ll be happier by making those smart choices than the dumb one to chase the mirage of getting rich quick by playing the lottery.

Charlie Smith is editor and publisher of The Columbian-Progress. Contact him at csmith@columbianprogress.com or (601) 736-2611.

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