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In the Lottery, Even A Winner Can Lose

THE most popular parlor game in Boston this week centers around an intriguing question: If you found a lottery ticket worth $10,000, then learned the identity of the person who owned it, what would you do?

The issue is far from hypothetical. Last week an eight-year-old girl in Winchendon, Mass., Traci Ruschioni, found two instant lottery tickets in a video-store parking lot. When the family scratched them, they discovered that one was worth $4, the other $10,000.

Before you could say “instant winner,” Traci and her mother were driving to the Massachusetts Lottery Commission to collect their windfall. Traci quickly became a minor celebrity as reporters and photographers converged on the family’s home.

Meanwhile, before you could say “instant loser,” a sadder drama was unfolding. The purchaser of the tickets, Dudley Haney, discovered almost immediately that he had dropped them. He retraced his steps, obtained the serial numbers from the clerk who had sold him the tickets, and frantically searched the parking lot.

When Traci’s identity became public, Mr. Haney appealed to her parents to “set an example for the community and for their kids” by returning the money, which he said he would share. “That’s what should happen morally,” he added.

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Many locals agreed. “Morally and spiritually, you have to give it back,” one man told the Boston Globe, echoing the comments of others. “What you do always comes back to you in other ways.” But another contingent sided with Traci’s father, whose position is: Tough luck – finders keepers. He insists the money is rightfully theirs. Haney, left with an unfortunate case of losers weepers, is considering taking the case to court.

Hitting the jackpot without even buying a ticket may represent the latest bizarre entry in the annals of lottery history. At the same time, the to-keep-or-not-to-keep debate signals how broadly accepted – and acceptable – lotteries have become. The old question – What are the ethics of lotteries? – has been replaced by a new one, far less morally vexing, that asks simply: What are the ethics of keeping a lottery ticket?

Gambling has been called the “nice vice.” Rather than viewing it as a sin – the stuffy old attitude – supposedly enlightened modernists make legalized gambling, now sanctioned by some churches and all but two states, seem like a virtue. Think of all the millions of lottery dollars going for education, they say. Think of all the Indian tribes gaining much-needed revenue from casinos, and all the parishes being kept afloat by bingo. What could be “cleaner” than money won helping to fund a worthy cause? Do your patriotic duty and play your number today.

Even the word gambling is considered outdated by some casino operators, who prefer to call it “gaming” and “family entertainment.” No wonder Americans spent $304 billion on “gaming” during 1991, a recession year. And no wonder teenagers have reported to researchers that they feel like outsiders if they don’t gamble. Preteen Traci is getting a head start.

The same day that the girl’s unexpected winnings made headlines, gambling was making local news in other ways. Massachusetts Gov. William Weld (R) is considering a plan to legalize floating casinos in Boston Harbor. Revenue would finance a convention center and a domed stadium. He sees legalized gambling as a better way to increase public revenue than raising taxes.

To his credit, state Attorney General Scott Harshbarger (D) opposes the move. Speaking for gambling foes everywhere, he calls these efforts a “short-term fix to get revenues.” He warns that “as a cure in every state that has tried it, gambling is worse than the disease.”

The Ruschionis have spoken of using their winnings for a family visit to Disney World. What could be more innocent? The plot could come straight out of a Disney movie.

All the more reason to value Harshbarger’s courageous dissent from the prevailing view that gambling is as American as apple pie. When will more public figures stand up to make the distinction between a gambler’s dream and the American dream? For every family that gets to Disney World on a winning ticket, there may be five families impoverished or broken up by gambling losses. Those are odds you can bet on.

THE most popular parlor game in Boston this week centers around an intriguing question: If you found a lottery ticket worth $10,000, then learned t

Massachusetts Lottery’s biggest winners through the years

Miguel Negron

Miguel Negron Jr., of Springfield, won the $1 million prize on a “$10,000,000 Mega Fortune” scratch ticket on Sept. 11, 2017. He opted to receive a one-time payment, meaning he took home $455,000 after tax withholdings. He said he will use his winnings to buy a house.

Antonino Nolasco

Antonino Nolasco of Somers, Connecticut, bought a “$4,000,000 Bonus Cash” scratch ticket in Longmeadow and won a $1 million prize Sept. 11, 2017. He chose the cash option and received a one-time payment of $650,000 before taxes. He said he plans to invest his winnings.

Carlos Montes

Carlos Montes, of Chelsea, won $1 million Sept. 1, 2017, on a “50X” scratch ticket. He received a one-time payment of $650,000 (less tax withholdings). He said he plans to use the money to purchase a new home and assist his family.

Donald Creighton

Donald Creighton III, of Easthampton, won $1 million on Aug. 30, 2017, with a “50X” scratch ticket. He received a one-time payment of $650,000 (less tax withholdings). He said he plans to buy a new home.

Alfred A. Marcoux, of Westfield, went home with $455,000 on Aug. 31, 2017, after cashing in a $1 million instant scratch ticket.

Josh Reynolds / Associated Press

Mavis Wanczyk, of Chicopee, claimed the $758.7 million Powerball prize Aug. 24, 2017. Officials said it is the largest single-ticket Powerball prize in U.S. history.

Elsie Campbell Beckford

Elsie Campbell Beckford, of Dorchester, won $1 million in Powerball Aug. 25, 2017. Her winnings come out to $700,000 after taxes.

Rosanne Grady

Rosanne Grady, of Watertown, won $1 million in Powerball on Aug. 25, 2017. After taxes her prize comes out to $700,000.

Terrena Scannell

Terrena Scannell, of Methuen, won the multi-state “Lucky for Life” drawing July 31, 2017. Scannell chose to collect her prize in the form of a one-time payment of $390,000 (less tax withholdings). She said she planned on using her winnings to pay for college and her car.

Benjamin Alves

Benjamin Alves, of Boston, won $1 million in the “100X The Cash” instant game on Aug. 14, 2017. Alves chose the cash option on his prize and received a one-time payment of $650,000 (less tax withholdings). He said he planned to use part of his winnings to purchase a home.

Thomas Hubert

Thomas Hubert, of Fall River, won $1 million with a “4,000,000 Instant Jackpot” scratch ticket on Aug. 14, 2017. Hubert opted to receive his prize in the form of a one-time payment of $650,000 (less tax withholdings). He said he planned to invest part of his winnings.

Robert Goff

Robert P. Goff Jr. of Southwick hit on a $4 million prize in the lottery’s “100X” instant game in August 2017.

Steven Turgeon

Steven R. Turgeon, of Springfield, won a $1 million prize in August 2017 as part of the lottery’s “200X” instant game.

Theresa McClain

Theresa McClain, of Roxbury, won $1 million with an “Ultimate Millions” scratch ticket Aug. 2, 2017. McClain opted to receive her prize in the form of a one-time payment of $650,000 (less tax withholdings). She said she planned on using part of her winnings to purchase a new home.

Thomas O’Toole

Thomas O’Toole, of Westminster, won a $2 million Powerball prize Aug. 2, 2017. He said he planned to use a portion of his winnings to make some home repairs.

Christos Lirantonakis

Christos Lirantonakis, of Salem, won $1 million on a “Supreme Millions” scratch ticket July 31, 2017. He opted for a one-time payment of $650,000 (less tax withholdings). He said he planned to use some of his winnings to help pay for his daughter’s wedding in Greece.

Everett Moreira

Everett Moreira, of Winchester, won a $1 million Powerball prize July 26, 2017. He said he planned on investing part of his winnings for his retirement.

James Skerry

James Skerry, of Quincy, won $1 million in the “100X The Cash” instant game July 26, 2017. He received a one-time payment of $650,000 (less tax withholdings).

Ann Margaret Woodworth

Ann Margaret Woodworth, of Holbrook, won $2 million in the “$2,000,000 50X Cashword” instant game July 25, 2017. She opted for a one-time payment of $1.3 million (less tax withholdings).

Josif Bigiku

Josif Bigiku, of Peabody, won $1 million with a “Extra Plays” $5 scratch ticket on June 2, 2017. He chose the cash option on his prize and received a one-time payment of $650,000 (less tax withholdings).

He said he planned on using his winnings to pay off his oldest daughter’s student loans and pay for his youngest daughter to attend college. He also planned on making some charitable donations.

Massachusetts Lottery’s biggest winners through the years Miguel Negron Miguel Negron Jr., of Springfield, won the $1 million prize on a “$10,000,000 Mega Fortune” scratch ticket on Sept. ]]>