Monday, March 17, 2008

Lotto is for losers

I live close to one of the poorer parts of town - an area where, one can safely assume, a large proportion of the population relies on the unemployment benefit, the sickness benefit, the invalid's benefit, or one of the other benefits that collectively comprise the social welfare "safety net" in New Zealand. It is an area where the one row of small shops, when I last checked it, included a liquor shop, a Lotto shop, a secondhand clothing shop and a "dairy". (A dairy, in New Zealand, is what people in other English-speaking countries would probably call a corner store. In other words, it's a place where you can pick up your milk, your bread, your smokes, and the greasy meat pies that will eventually kill you - if the smokes don't get you first.)

Needless to say, I almost never head in that direction. It's always sad, when one passes the Lotto shop, to see it doing brisk business, as those who are already desperately poor become even poorer by buying $5 tickets for the next $6-million draw, or by feverishly applying themselves to the Instant Kiwi scratchcards. Of course, they might be lucky. But then they might be struck by lightning when they step outside the store. The odds against either event happening are probably about the same.

All this is a preamble to today's top infotech story in New Zealand: that NZ Lotteries may begin selling Lotto tickets online as early as next month. This news has raised fears of a drop in income among Lotto franchisees, who earned $51.5 million last year from a 7-percent commission on ticket sales. One franchisee, in central Wellington, says Lotto tickets currently account for 60 percent of his sales and bring him about $20,000 gross a week. Seems everyone is making money except the poor punter.

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