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Florida Lottery to Offer Additional Sucker Bets

The days of buying a Powerball or Florida Lotto ticket and waiting until Wednesday or Saturday night for the results are dying.

For low-stakes gamblers who crave daily action, there have always been Cash 3 and Play 4. Both games cost $1, provide results daily, and pay — $500 for Cash 3 and $5,000 for Play 4. That's not life-changing money, but it's certainly worth celebrating.

I learned of their unique popularity in poorer neighborhoods while researching a package I did at the Sun-Sentinel on frequent players and winners. Cash 3 and Play 4 players buy their tickets daily because God forbid that 4-5-6 combo comes in on a day they didn’t bet them. And when you live paycheck to paycheck, that $365 a year (or more) you’re gambling has a more realistic chance of paying out than the Florida Lotto or Powerball.

The Cash 3 and Play 4 players, in my opinion, were among those most taken advantage of in the Florida Lottery. They’re not the “dollar-and-a-dream” affluent folks putting down money on Powerball for the enjoyment of envisioning untold riches — although Powerball and Florida Lotto pay out only 50 percent of ticket sales. (By the way, horse tracks pay out about 80 percent, casino slots 92 percent.)

So, what has the Florida Lottery done? Well, in 2008, they added a “midday draw,” meaning players could buy tickets for a 1:30 p.m. daily drawing as well as the traditional 7:57 p.m. one. That's kind of like when the shampoo manufacturers added “repeat” to the directions, and usage increased. That $365 annual bet grew to $730.

And now they are adding two more daily draw games, with equally putrid payouts.

Starting August 1, you can play Pick 2, Pick 5, and our old favorites, as well as the newly renamed Pick 3 and Pick 4. Pick 2 will pay $50 (think about it: If you took every possible two-number combination of 0 through 9, that’s 100 numbers), and Pick 5 will pay $50,000 (on odds of one in 100,000). Yes, both will be offered twice daily.

Like state lotteries everywhere, Florida gets about three-fourths of its revenue from 10 percent of the state population – the heavy players – says Les Bernal of Stop Predatory Gambling, which calls for an end to lotteries.

"They can talk all they want about how much they care about citizens, but state lotteries are the poster child for the rising unfairness and inequality in our country,” he says.

He says lotteries specialize in “extracting whatever discretionary money some people have, getting them to play games designed to get them to lose,” and states should instead encourage citizens to build their assets.

Experts correctly note that true gambling addicts play scratch-off lottery games because there’s nothing more instantly gratifying than buying that ticket with your pack of cigs, standing outside, and scratching off to see if you’ve won. But scratch-offs return 70 cents on each dollar invested, so it’s a little less of a sucker’s bet.

The lottery will still continue another daily draw game, Fantasy 5. Players choose five numbers ranging from one through 36. The payout is usually over $200,000 if you’re the sole person to choose the five numbers drawn.

Florida Lotto, Powerball, Cash 3, Play 4, and Fantasy 5 each account for about 6 percent of Florida’s $5 billion in lottery sales. Scratch-offs comprise about 70 percent and are growing.

Get daily gambling news at Nick Sortal’s SouthFloridaGambling.com

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