RYAN BAKKEN: Why we love to play for payWith gambling, winning money is only part of the allure
Two bad things can happen when you gamble.
One, you can lose a lot of money.
Two, you can win a lot of money.
Granted, the latter is preferred over the former. However, it’s also widely documented that sudden infusions of big money also can damage lives.
That’s why I regard Angela Norby of Red Lake Falls, Minn., as hitting the jackpot when she recently won $200,000 in a Minnesota Lottery scratch-ticket game. That’s far from the multi-million dollars of some lottery payouts. After taxes, she will have less than $150,000, which is enough to make a difference yet not enough to change a lifestyle or attract long-lost second-cousins looking for handouts.
As you might suspect from someone living in our area, the winnings are going for practical purposes. Some is put away for a college fund for 5-year-old son A.J. Forsberg. Some will be used to repair their home’s leaky roof. Some will go into savings.
And there’s one “extravagance” — a Lund fishing boat that was new 13 years ago.
Norby’s formula for scratch-off success is one practiced by most people who play the lottery or pull-tabs: She reinvested her small winnings.
Her quest started in early April by buying one $10 ticket. That produced a $10 winner, which produced a $30 winner, which produced a $20 winner, etc., etc. She said she had small winnings 4-5 times from the initial $10 investment until she hit the game’s big prize on April 25.
“This never happens to me,” said Norby, who has no plans to quit her job at Digi-Key in Thief River Falls. “I can’t even win at bingo. They never call my numbers.”
They never called my numbers, either, because I’m not much of a gambler. Maybe it’s because I was raised Lutheran and not Catholic, thus not relying on turkey bingo to pay the cathedral’s heating bill.
When I do gamble, it’s usually over something that requires decision-making, such as picking football winners or predicting election winners. That way, bragging rights of intellectual superiority comes with the winnings.
However, when the lottery payout reaches the stratosphere, I join Herald newsroom members in pooling our wagers, in search of riches. The workplace lottery partnerships are more about bonding with co-workers than seeking a retirement plan. It’s all about the fun of several days of whimsy, anticipating a big score.
It’s the same dynamic witnessed at pull-tab jars in bars across the land. Friends pool their money to have more chances at a big score, but also for social reasons. Plus, the scratching or the pulling is part of the fun.
Minnesota leaders didn’t understand this dynamic when they set up electronic pull-tabs to finance a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesotans love pull-tabs and they love the Vikings. What could go wrong?
Well, what went wrong is that electronic pull-tabs don’t offer the same thrill as actually pulling the tab yourself and consequently don’t offer the same social component. So, what was advertised as a $100 million per month endeavor became $2 million a month.
So, unlike Norby, the Vikings may not have a solution for their leaky roof.
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send e-mail to email@example.com.