Editorial: Lottery scratch tickets can get addictive

Published 10:10 am Friday, August 9, 2013

It’s kind of sad to witness, really. And everyone has seen it happen.

There are times at local convenience stores when people spend far too much time buying lottery tickets. Most people are there to purchase pop, milk, coffee, gas or maybe a quick bite to eat and get out of there, but then they must wait behind the person who seems to have a gambling problem.

The selection process is long. This one. No, that one. Anyone been getting lucky with these?

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It’s one thing to buy lottery tickets. For example, a husband buys one for his wife to play before a long drive. It’s for entertainment value. He picks a ticket and moves on. Like this: Um, this one.

But fretting over the purchase of a lottery ticket like it is buying stock in a Fortune 500 company is a sign that, maybe, the buyer might have a minor gambling problem. Day after day they tell themselves they are going to the store for one item, get to the counter and can’t help but get tickets anyway.

To people without gambling problems, they hardly see tickets beneath the counter. These scratch games are not about winning or losing. They are merely a time-waster, a low-key form of entertainment, something to do on a lunch break, an activity they can skip weeks at a time.

Fortunately, most stores require people to go outside to scratch tickets. There was a time when addicts would scratch right at the counter and then buy some more with any winnings, until they were out of money.

Gambling addiction is called a hidden illness because there are not physical signs or clear symptoms. People with gambling addiction deny or hide the problem. Many worry about being discovered by friends and relatives.

Being secretive is one of the warning signs of a gambling problem. According to the Iowa Gambling Treatment Program, other signs are being unable to cut back or stop, chasing losses with more gambling, being restless or irritable when not gambling, increasing gambling amounts and being preoccupied with finding ways to gamble. A person doesn’t need to show all the signs to have a problem. They only need to show one.

Some solutions are limiting the amount of money brought to the store, buying enough goods to keep in the home so as to prevent frequent trips to the store, calculating how much of a paycheck goes to lottery tickets (because knowing the figure can be a wake-up call) and, most of all, considering loved ones and how much they don’t want this.

Be careful out there. Everything in moderation.