Pennsylvanians are supposed to be ecstatic that the Pennsylvania Lottery had another record year for sales.

Whoop. Whoop.

It is not state government’s job to promote gambling. Nor is it state government’s job to create record numbers of gambling addicts.

Yet the lines at the lottery game counters in convenience stores, the demeanor of some lottery ticket purchasers, and the l-o-n-g strings of tickets they buy suggest that state government is doing just that: Promoting gambling and creating gambling addicts. Buying one ticket is one thing, but buying fistfuls of tickets is another thing altogether.

Gambling is not harmless.

Yes, the “profits” go to good causes, e.g., free bus rides, property tax rebates, free meals and other amenities Pennsylvania gives to senior citizens.

A half-century and more ago, big city mobsters handed out Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas presents by the thousands, too, attempting to portray the “numbers games” of that era as harmless. The mobs were violent, though that cannot be blamed directly on gambling. But the suicides, divorces, homelessness and hopelessness that have crushed the souls of addicted gamblers speak starkly to the dangers of gambling.

Let’s not be naive. Danger is ubiquitous in our world, ranging from deaths via speeding cars to tragic inattention by users of chain saws. Part of growing up is learning about those dangers, how to avoid them if possible and minimize them if necessary.

With gambling, however, we aren’t teaching; we are seducing new gamblers.

Scratch-off games, the ultimate impulse buy, accounted for more than two-thirds of the lottery’s sales, or $2.9 billion, further tempting people to give away cash in return for ... hope?

Hah. More like “hype.”

Back when the lottery came into existence in Pennsylvania in 1971, voters were promised that the state would allow its lottery, but would not promote it.

Hah, again.

Punxsutawney Phil is not the only cute groundhog seen hereabouts. The Pennsylvania Lottery knock-off, “Gus,” promotes the bejabers out of the lottery.

Politicians lied to us long before President Trump made an art form out of deceit.

But let’s be clear-eyed here: Though its proceeds do some good, the Pennsylvania Lottery can lead people down a path that ends in financial and emotional ruin.

And in its efforts to seduce citizens to lose their money to the lottery rather than to the increased taxes it would be to pay for state vote-buying (Yes, it is) programs, Pennsylvania is endangering all of us.

Be careful out there.

— Denny Bonavita

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