An advertisement for a trip to Yellowstone National Park

Today the North Carolina “Education” Lottery marks its second anniversary by adding yet another twist to the arm of its poorest and most easily suckered residents. Additional “Pick 3” drawings will target the lottery’s steadiest customers, the same ones who may buy three cigarettes out of a pack to go with their fifty cent or one dollar lottery ticket.

It turns out that these are among the most faithful lottery supporters, but they’ll have to make more trips to the convenience store to buy more tickets in order to be eligible for every additional drawing.

A News & Observer story illustrates the muddied thinking of the folks who willingly submit to this state-sponsored leech, citing the example of a woman who plays the same three numbers five times a day, six days a week. The woman makes about $75 a day as a babysitter and spends $90 a week on a game whose top payout is $500. She says she’ll up that by an additional $30 when the new drawings become available.

“I’m just trying to hit some money,” she told the N&O. “You know, I got three boys.”

You know, she also has a very poor understanding of basic math. Despite spending more than 20 percent of her income on lottery tickets, she admits that she’s never won the “Pick 3,” and apparently doesn’t realize that by simply saving the same amount of money she plans to spend on lottery tickets starting today, she’d have more than the top $500 prize every month to spend on her three boys — $500 that is now used to fund exorbitant salaries to lottery executives and pay out winnings to the lucky few, while sending a much smaller amount than promised to support education in North Carolina.

The North Carolina lottery started amid a scandal that has yet to be resolved. A court case regarding the illegal means by which former (and now disgraced) speaker Jim Black rammed it through is heading for the state Supreme Court.

In the lottery, North Carolinians — like those in every state that sponsors lottery style gambling — have been sold a bill of goods, a “voluntary” tax that preys on its poorest and most gullible residents and passes itself off as an aid to education.

We certainly need better education. Some of our lawmakers need a remedial course in ethics, and those who spend their grocery money on lottery tickets need a basic course in math.

I doubt, however, that the North Carolina “Education” Lottery will be footing the bill for those programs.

[The graphic, believe it or not, is from the N.C. Lottery official site, where it warns of telephone solicitors and others who try to work an additional scam on top of the state lottery’s official con game.]

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