However, I've always had a particular dislike for Lotto. To me, it seems to have all the randomness and depression of going to the dog track, but without the fun of throwing your hat on the ground and stamping on it when you lose. As an 'investment', it's a terrible idea - you'd be better off hiding your money under a mattress or burying it in your backyard. As for 'entertainment'... well, quite.
The last time that Lotto itself was on the front page of the newspaper it was because of the giant jackpots that were on offer earlier this year. At the time, I bemoaned the articles - more or less Lotto propaganda - being written in the media about the draws, and the complete misunderstandings of statistics that accompanied them. Today, however, Lotto is on the front page of the paper for a different reason: it has made a record profit.
Thousands of community groups will benefit from the New Zealand Lotteries Commission's record profit of $189 million.That's nice. But I'm curious about this notion of Lotto, and therefore the Lottery Grants Board, making a 'profit'. Like I keep having to say, I'm not economist, and I'm not denying that they have actually collected this surplus of money. My quibble is with the alleged benefits that this article claims Lotto brings to the community.
Sport and Recreation New Zealand, Creative NZ and the Film Commission - the three main beneficiaries of the Lottery Grants Board funds - learned last night they would receive more money than expected.
But a spokesman for Mr Guy said last night hundreds more community groups would also be in line for money.
Every year, hundreds of community groups who meet the grants criteria apply for money but are declined.
Lotto doesn't actually produce anything (other than, of course, 'entertainment'). The $189 million isn't a profit that New Zealand made, any more than the tax money that the government takes is the country's profit. Surely what it actually is is redistribution. The money that Lotto has 'generated' for community groups has come from - wait for it - communities. The question that remains is whether the redistribution is worth it or not.
I'm all for social cooperation, but the money that is given out in grants is just coming out of the pockets of the people it ends up being given back to - minus, of course, the marketing, staging and administrative costs of running Lotto, the Lotteries Commission and the Lottery Grants Board. I have no data on who tends to play Lotto, but my sneaking suspicion is that it's not the wealthy sitting there praying for a big win; they know to put their five dollars on the stock market. The fact that the three biggest 'winners' from lottery grants are Sport and Recreation New Zealand, Creative NZ and the Film Commission - all performing valuable but, especially the last two, primarily bourgeois services - leads me to believe that this redistribution isn't quite as progressive as the rather chirpy Herald article makes out. Sure, that's not always the case:
Mr Guy said Lottery grants provided vital backing for social, community, arts, heritage, sports, recreation, and health research activities which had a positive effect on New Zealand communities.
"A lottery grant can be the difference between an organisation wanting to make something happen in its community and being able to make it happen. It means that ordinary New Zealanders can do amazing things for their communities."
The Combined Beneficiaries Union in Auckland had $66,000 in Government funding cancelled.
But it also receives lottery grants, and can now expect to benefit from the profit jump.
Of course, "the profit jump" was just more people spending money on Lotto, so if those people were beneficiaries then the nett "benefit" might be less than the Herald suggests.
This year's profit is likely to help offset Government funding cuts which have hit many community groups and organisations.Yes, just like me taking ten dollars from your wallet and giving it to you offsets the loss of ten dollars from your wallet.
Don't read too much into this - I'm not claiming that Lotto should be banned, or that it's any worse than, say, Sky City, which constantly trumpets its charitable and community work - which of course happen to be its statutory obligations under its gambling licence. But the rather rosy picture of what is just, when you strip off the shiny-yet-humble veneer, another form of gambling painted by today's lead Herald article I found as distasteful as the first time you walk onto the gaming floor at the Auckland Casino: where you thought everyone would be wearing tuxedos, it turns out they're all wearing trackpants.