Are Lotto Scratch-Offs Bad?
We've all seen them when walking into a convenience or liquor store, but what do they really represent?
For most people, they're fun pieces of paper that might bring us luck. Yeah chances are we're not going to win much, if anything, but there's always the possibility we'll hit the jackpot someday.
Even so, the scratch-off ticket is often played for entertainment and won't cost you more than a couple of bucks.
However that same piece of paper could drive an addict with gambling disorder insane. For them it's not just a game, it's their gateway drug toward bigger and riskier pathways.
So what can be done and what alternatives are there to decrease the temptation of walking into a liquor store and buying hundreds of tickets?
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to support and/or promote gambling for money. It's main focus is to address common concerns for those suffering with gambling addiction. It also seeks out non-gambling methods to help victims.
The Value of the Scratch-off
No scratch-off is the same and each have their own values and prizes, but how much does a ticket's worth correlate to the intensity of the addiction.
Here I'll examine the values of each scratch-off ticket and what they really mean to a gambler who buys it:
1. One dollar ticket: A single purchase of this ticket is akin to a quick hit for a smoker. It's a small little taste that keeps the psyche in check
2. Two dollar ticket: It's a slightly stronger taste but nothing noteworthy. An occasional purchase of this ticket is not harmful, but it could be a sign of things to come
3. Five dollar scratch-off: The addict is raising the stakes and requires monitoring. A few of these is like smoking a whole pack of cigarettes.
4. Ten dollar scratch-off: Warning! The gambler is internally hostile and is getting riskier with their money. It's okay to buy this ticket once in a while, but it's a bad omen.
5. Twenty dollar scratch-off: Mayday, mayday, the addict is on the loose. Immediate attention is required and they're about to take things to the next level!
Okay so some of those are exaggerated, but they represent a real problem.
If you know someone who has a gambling problem, then you should pay attention to what they buy, what it's for, how many they buy, and how much they spend.
How Much Are You Spending?
The value of a ticket is one thing, but how many they purchase is an entirely unique concern.
A known gambler who spends only a dollar for one ticket is different from another addict that spends 100 dollars for 100 one-dollar tickets.
The face value of the ticket hasn't change but the quantity has, and that can have serious repercussions.
One of the situations above is acceptable, but the other indicates either a loss of control or the beginning stages of gambling disorder, if they don't already have it. The damage gets taken up a notch if the quantity and quality are high.
Do you know how much someone buying over a hundred tickets worth 20 dollars each spends?
Easy math: 2,000 dollars
But the point is that it's a lot of money spent on scratch-off tickets, and what if the person spends that much every month or week?
The sum would rapidly add up, which could force them into mass debt.
Scratch-off lottery tickets don't have to be the victim's gateway drug into higher stakes. They already have enough risk if a gambler purchases hundreds of them weekly.
Negative Pathways for Gambling Addicts
|Stage 1||Stage 2||Stage 3|
$1 Scratch-off lottery tickets
Multiple scratch offs with varying values
Numerous scratch-offs & Regular lotto tickets
$1-10 dollar small end sports bets
Sports betting from various sporting events
Higher betting at races
Minor friendly wagers at young ages
Card games and wagers among friends & family
Casino games and card games (poker)
Gambling Addiction Outlets
Not every gambling pathway has a linear structure.
Each path carries great risk to someone who's struggling with gambling addiction or is on the cusp of it.
Lottery tickets don't have to be a gateway toward something bigger, but they were for former victims like myself. It started out with friendly wagers and scratch-offs, and then it resulted in gambling at casinos.
The use of scratch-offs was partly due to age restrictions because you can't gamble at a casino if you're under 21, and you have to be 18+ to buy scratch-off tickets based on New Jersey laws.
Countries like the U.S. have less gambling regulations, but there are several countries that ban gambling altogether.
That doesn't sound like a bad idea as it could alleviate some of the pain addicts suffer, but unfortunately they would likely find other outlets to such as illegal gambling zones.
A lot of sports betting and wagering is done privately.
Card games have historically been a popular outlet for gamblers, and a lot of underground (illegal) poker arenas have been created for that reason.
For some it could be a way to relax and socialize if stakes are low, but the risks elevate once bets increase.
Note: I'm strongly against any type of underground and illegal gambling.
Alternatives to Scratch-Offs
So you like buying scratch-offs eh?
Is it because of how they look, the paper they're printed on, or maybe because it's blind luck.
For gambling addicts, it's a combo of all three. They art can be pretty to look at, and the thought of winning will always be intriguing.
When I used to see scratch-offs, my victim's mentality believed that maybe the next ticket will be the "big one". It took a while before my naive nature finally obtained sensible logic instead of delusion.
- False Gambler's Mentality: I'm only a ticket away from winning big
That kind of fallacy will drain your money faster, and you'd be better off avoiding places that sell tickets.
Nowadays there are also free apps on your phone that resemble scratch-offs without the risks.
I use the "Lucktastic" app on my Android phone because it's free, fun and is a virtual scratch-off game. There are a variety of digital scratch-offs and you won't have to pay a dime to access them. You could also win different prizes and tokens for gift cards/cash.
Other apps I enjoy using are casino or slot apps because they're free and replicate the sights and sounds of real world casinos.
The only problem is that some of those apps want you to purchase in game tokens with real money, which you should never do. Instead of purchasing game tokens, simply download more free apps.
Another option would be to play a game that doesn't involve chancing money. Board games and non-betting card games are always fun to play without risk.
How about Monopoly or an enlightening game of Scrabble.
It's a lot more enjoyable playing a game without endangering your livelihood for it.
Beware the Gambler's Fallacy
You don't have to quit buying scratch-off tickets, but there have to be limits.
Gradually decrease the amount of tickets you buy per week and increase the time between purchases.
For example if you buy 10 tickets a week then go for 8 the next week and 6 the following week. Eventually increase the time so those 10 tickets a week become 2-4 tickets (or less) every other week.
As with other addictions, the addict has to change their mindset and gradually tear away from the source. I can't tell them to give it up completely because it would be hypocritical to do so.
Instead decrease how much you spend and how often you buy them. If you gradually pull away, then they'll slowly diminish in value and necessity.
Hopefully you can quit buying them entirely because then you'll be eliminating the dangers completely.
And that's the best thing anyone suffering from gambling addiction could hope for.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on July 23, 2015:
They are a bad habit, but I know a lot of people don't view it that way. They think they're fun and no big deal, but they can get addicting quickly.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 22, 2015:
lottery tickets are still in demand in our country, really a bad habit of gambling
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on July 18, 2015:
Thanks Chris. No luck this week. If no luck in two weeks, I didn't get picked. It would've been nice to be called to be on the show and win lots of money.
Krzysztof Willman (author) from Parlin, New Jersey on July 17, 2015:
Ouch that's unfortunate. They always seem to do that with a promise of a call that never comes. I wish you better luck though and a chance to win again. Thank you for reading.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on July 16, 2015:
Great hub, Chris. I buy scratch-offs once in awhile. Back in late May, I won a chance to appear on the local TV lottery show, since my card had three entry listed. Well I never had gotten the call to appear on the show--if no calls in 2 weeks, no lotto winnings! Voted up!