I’m just an ignorant old reporter still with plenty of questions yet to ask — even in retirement. So, answer me this: if inflation, which has come down, was so bad in 2023 how come Massachusetts residents had plenty of dough to spend on gambling?

Colin A. Young reported last week in the State House News Service, “The Massachusetts Lottery did more than $487 million in sales in December, up nearly 5% from a year prior as scratch tickets flew from store counters to stockings in the holiday season.

“Executive Director Mark William Bracken’s report Tuesday to the Lottery Commission said the $21 million increase in monthly sales, combined with an $11 million decrease in scratch ticket prizes claimed during December, led to an estimated profit of $95.1 million for the month. That represents an increase of $4 million over December 2022. Last month’s prize payout percentage (72.24%) was just less than December 2022’s (72.64%).

“Now halfway through fiscal year 2024, Lottery sales of roughly $3.17 billion are up $151.8 million or 5% over the same checkpoint in [FY23]. The lottery’s estimated profit, which Beacon Hill eventually divides up among the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, trails last year’s record-setting pace by $7.6 million at $573.6 million.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be judgmental here. I play the lottery. Either two or three times a week, I head to Buckeye Bros. in the South End of Springfield and buy a Powerball ticket and a scratcher. So far, I haven’t won big — if I get millions through Powerball I’m going to drop out of sight — but hope springs eternal.

My point is I think it’s fascinating that people gnash their teeth and rend their garments about inflation and increasing prices at the same time they are able to continue their gaming habits.

I understand about prices. I now get to use that old chestnut of being elderly and on a fixed income. Clearly, though, unless it was all younger people, which I doubt, plenty of older people played the Lottery.

On my way to Focus Springfield, which is located on the MGM campus, I cut through the casino at 10 a.m. There were quite a few people there on a Wednesday morning playing slots and all I saw was grey hair.

The Gaming Commission’s monthly report about casino earnings shows that for December 2023, MGM earned $23,610,279.58. It paid nearly $6 million in taxes.
And sports wagering? The taxable gaming revenue for the commonwealth was more than $60 million, resulting in $12 million in taxes.

Despite inflation, people still the have money to gamble. It’s called free will.
I just want people, especially in an election year, to think honestly about issues such as inflation and especially why inflation increased as it did. As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich posted in his social media, “New research shows that corporate profits drove 53% of inflation during the second and third quarters of 2023. During the 40 years prior to the coronavirus pandemic, profits drove juts 11% of price growth. News flash: Corporations used inflation as cover to squeeze more money out of you.”

In the meantime, I’m sure people will continue with their gambling habits and their complaining about prices.

A long road ahead

I’m waxing nostalgic here — do you remember when the Massachusetts presidential primary actually meant something? This is before Massachusetts became part of Super Tuesday, so I’m talking ancient history here.

Only if there is a contested field of Democrats would Massachusetts results truly matter under the present system.

This year we see an incumbent Democratic president face one of two Republicans, one of whom is the acknowledged leader of the Republican Party. The outcome for the primaries is not very exciting.

As long as Nikki Haley stays in the race, there might be some tiny element of suspense. It will be, however, a very long slog of a campaign.

Of course, the outcome of the final election is of incredible importance, as the soul of this nation is on the line.

G. Michael Dobbs has worked for Reminder Publishing for 23 years of his nearly 50-year-career in the Western Mass. media scene, and previously served as the executive editor. He has spent his time with the publisher covering local politics, interesting people and events. The opinions expressed within the article are that of the author’s and do not represent the opinions and beliefs of the paper.