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Opinion and Editorial

First Lottery Experience

It was just my lucky day, when a friendly stranger handed me my first lottery ticket at Finn’s store on Main Street, Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 2:25 p.m. “The friendly stranger bought an extra ticket for me, after I interviewed him about how to play the lottery.”

It all started when my professor, Dr. Green gave his students the deadline for our next assignment. In the beginning of the semester, each student chose a general topic and came up with three specific angles, in which a journalist can write an article. The general topic I chose was Gambling in Pennsylvania. I wrote my first story about one of my peers who regularly gambles online.

My next story was supposed to be focused on the Pennsylvania Lottery System. However, I didn’t realize how much of a dilemma this had become until Oct. 21. Saturday, Oct. 22 at 2:05p.m., I went downtown on Main street, to find that Finn’s, a store my professor suggested to visit, was not open. Since there were three local stores in the area that sold lottery tickets, I decided to visit those stores.

I went to what looked like a local corner store, and asked the cashier if I could ask him a few questions. He seemed pretty busy but he encouraged me to come back the next day, any time before closing at 7 p.m. I left the store and walked to the Uni-Mart. Luckily, there weren’t a lot of customers in the store; therefore, my interview wouldn’t be interrupted by a customer’s purchases.

The cashier was the only employee in the store at the time and seemed very suspicious of the questions I was asking. “Can you give me an estimate of about how many people purchased  lottery tickets here,” I asked. It was clear that he didn’t feel comfortable giving out any information; therefore, I left the store, unsatisfied.

The next day at 6:45 p.m., I rushed downtown to the local corner store to meet the cashier who was willing to let me ask him some questions about the lottery. When I walked into the store, a different cashier was standing behind the register. I told the cashier that I was looking for the manager. He told me that his manager was sick and that he won’t be working until next week. The deadline for my story was Thursday, Oct. 27. How would I be able to write a 2,000 word article by this Thursday, Oct 27, without any quotes from the interview.

I went to my class on Tuesday to discuss the reasons of my “non-existent” article and he told me to go back to Finn’s to try to interview customers about the how many lottery tickets are bought, which lottery tickets are purchased more frequently, and out of the plays, how many wins did they have. I rushed from my Journalism Workshop class and power-walked to Finn’s.

When I arrived, there were only two people in the store: Marge Wegrzynowicz, a divorced, elderly woman who worked as a clerk at Finn’s and a customer and David Mcelwee, the stranger who bought me my first lottery ticket. I came up to the register with my tape recorder in my hand, in visible sight and asked them a few questions about selling and purchasing lottery tickets. What was supposed to be a simple interview with two strangers became a generous offer that could give me more money in my pocket.


Mcelwee thought nothing of his gift to me since buying a lottery ticket a day was a part of his daily routine. “For the past years, I’ve played Cash 5 for $2. I won little amounts: $1, $15, $12, $20, and $37 multiple times but I never won the grand prize,” explained Mcelwee.

The Cash 5 is one of the many types of lotteries one can play and it is also the cheapest. Each playslip or betting card has five game grids (the picture shown above). Each game consists of numbers 1-43. The player has two choices, according to the Pennsylvania Lottery Game Guide, to pick five numbers between one and 43 or ask for the random number generator so the computer will choose."Cash 5" play slip

Each game that is played cost one dollar. Once the clerk has confirmed that information is correct, the player will watch the TV drawing at 6:59 p.m which usually occurs every Friday. If two or more numbers drawn on TV match the numbers on the player’s playslip, the player will receive a cash prize.

Mcelwee described that it is better to use the random number generator than to draw numbers on the card. The random number generator is a system where the computer will choose a random set of numbers for the lottery and print out a receipt for the customer to keep. “Drawing numbers on the card is just the same as random numbers, except that I would probably lose the card,” said Mcelwee.

Wegrzynowicz is a retired woman who has worked at Finn’s for 28 years and also worked at the University store for 30 years. She currently has three jobs to pay her bills because she is divorced and living by herself. At the Finn’s store, she constantly witnesses customers coming in the store to purchase lottery tickets. “There are always people who come in [to play the lottery] daily,” said Wegrzynowicz. She explained that some people will buy up to “$50 worth of lottery tickets and others might buy at least $10 worth of lottery tickets.”

In Finn’s, half of the wall was covered with lists and charts of the current prize winners and daily drawings that were made. “There was one winner on the Cash 5 on Monday night and he received $500,000,” Wegrzynowicz reminisces.

Is it helpful or harmful?

The Pennsylvania Lottery system is known as the second largest lottery worldwide. The system of the lottery began after the establishment of the first 50 cent ticket in 1971.This particular ticket was used for weekly drawings to win the prize of $1 million. In the same year, more than $19.2 billion was given to programs for rent and property tax rebates, reduced-fare transit, and low-cost prescription drugs, according to the Worldwide Lotto Network.

Not to mention, this operation has given anyone the opportunity to win a grand prize of over a million dollars. The government may still see the lottery system as gambling, which is a very controversial topic in the U.S., due to legalization that occurred in only some states but not all. However, the lottery has its benefits as well. Without the large amounts of money, there would be no funding to these programs to help citizens, especially seniors.

In the property tax and rebate programs, the Lottery provides about $975 to citizens of Pennsylvania who are the age of 65 or older. It also gives money to widows and 18-year-olds with disabilities. Like several other programs, there are other requirements that must be met before receiving money. In addition, the Lottery’s funds were also given to the Area Agency on Aging or AAA, which provided senior centers with $8 million meals and was delivered to senior homes.

Due to the Lottery’s generosity, senior citizens of Pennsylvania of the age 65 and older no longer have to pay for public transit such as SEPTA buses, subways, regional rail, etc. Medication is also a very important factor in which the Lottery contributes to as well. Every day the Lottery helps provide 32,000 prescriptions to older adults.

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue defines gambling and lottery winnings as “personal income tax”, which means that there is taxation of any lottery ticket purchased unless a customer wins a monetary prize. “[I usually] put multiple drawings on one ticket. Some people prefer to put each drawing on a separate ticket to avoid paying any taxes,” explained Mcelwee.

Recent Lotto Inventions

"Self Scanner" ticket deviceMcelwee demonstrates a faster way to check to see the lottery ticket’s status. “Put your ticket in the barcode scanner to make the pain quick and [the process] simple.” He said, “[The Self-Scanner] tells you whether your ticket is a winner or not a winner.” Pennsylvania Lottery officials first used the Self Ticket Checker or Self-Scanner in the summer of 2009. According to WNEP-TV, some customers believe it to be a waste of time, but others may differ. Like all technology, the Self Scanner has its advantages and disadvantages.

Sometimes, the Self Scanner has its usual and unexpected technological problems. On the other hand, it saves the player time from having to patiently wait for the evening TV drawing. Recently, the Android, the iPhone and other smartphones have acquired two new apps, the Power Scan and the Mega Scan.

The Power Scan app is specifically used for the Powerball lottery. According to Pennsylvania Lottery System, the Powerball and Mega Millions are both the biggest multi-state lotteries played to this day. Its functions include recognizing the type of state ticket and matching the numbers. This app can be found for iPhones exclusively at the App Store for 99 cents. Powerball Scanner Lite, a similar version to the iPhone Power Scan, can be found in the Android Market for free.

The Mega Scan app is also used for the Mega Millions lottery only. It has the same functions as the Power Scan but has been experiencing technical problems. Also, Mega Millions Scanner Lite, the Android version of the iPhone’s Mega Scan, can be found in the Android Market for free. The use of the ticket scanner on the smartphones is still in the process of being improved.

Although I didn’t win any money from my first lottery ticket, it still is a memory I will never forget. Best of all, there is a lesson in which everyone can learn. What seems like a good idea to win the lottery can be very harmful for one’s future. Therefore, it’s important to use strategies that are more familiar to the player. The more one plays the lottery, the more comfortable he/she will become. However, the lottery has no guarantee of winning the grand prize. It’s a game of risks, chances, and probability.