Leader: Residents should avoid playing lottery

By Greg Miller
STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com

  
The Rev. Steve Witt believes playing the lottery can result in serious financial problems.
   In addition to advising area residents not to play the lottery, Witt, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, encourages families to utilize a budget to avoid financial problems.
   "They (families) need to spend every dime of their money on paper before the month begins and after they've paid for their house payment, rent, gas, water, cable and all the other things that our daily life contains, look to see what's left and really budget carefully.
   "The average American already spends 104 percent of their annual income. I don't think the lottery is going to help that percentage; it may, in fact, hurt it.
   Residents who are at or below the poverty level will only hurt themselves by playing the lottery, according to Witt, who added that lottery ticket sales will hurt this area economically more than other areas in the state.
   "I think it will hurt this area more than most because Carter County's median income is fairly low," Witt said. "We have a lot of families in our county who live below the poverty line, or at least close to the poverty line. Already, between Assistance and Resource Ministries (ARM) and Hale Community Ministries and our government agencies that go to help the people who are needing help, they are already maxed out. So now, we're going to add to the equation ... Now, we're going to have an even greater burden."
   Witt said it is estimated that in many states that have lotteries, social services have increased by as much as 45 percent, "because of the negative impact that a lottery puts on families. When they spend their money, their desire for that quick wealth will sometimes cause people to make bad decisions with their finances."
   Witt believes the lottery has no redeeming social value. "It is not performing a service to earn money," he observed. "There is no work being performed in order to achieve this. It is a debt-centered fund-raising campaign, which really never works, if you think about it. People who are already wealthy are not going to buy lottery tickets for the most part, because they are already wealthy. So, in essence, the people who will buy lottery tickets are people who need to live on a tight budget, but they're going to bend that budget in hopes of getting wealthy quick."