staff photographer

Gillian Jones has been a staff photographer and columnist for the Berkshire Eagle since 2014. She began her journalism career at The North Adams Transcript in 1992.

An array of scratch tickets

Some of the $240 worth of scratch tickets the author won during a recent community raffle.

NORTH ADAMS — Like many, I admit I have an addictive personality. I love sweets, spirits and other riches that are fine in moderation but easy to overdo. I wish I could get addicted to exercising, but that has yet to happen.

Recently, I bought some raffle tickets for a friend who was looking to raise funds for her daughter’s dance company.

I bought $50 worth of raffle tickets and didn’t think much more about it.

Imagine my surprise when I was told that I won the raffle.

“I won?” I texted her. “What did I win?”

“$240 in scratch tickets,” she replied.

I had heard how some people give gifts of scratch-off lottery tickets for birthdays and other occasions. I’ve even seen a Christmas tree showcase fundraiser where one entire tree was decorated with lottery tickets.

While I do contribute to raffles in our community for fundraising goals when I can, I don’t generally gamble. Unlike the movie “Jerry and Marge Go Large,” which is based on a true story, I don’t know about a mathematic loophole in the state lottery that could enable me to win repeatedly and rebuild an entire community like they did in the movie.

Lottery revenues are supposed to help fund various sources, after the winnings are distributed and overhead costs are paid. The lottery revenues of most states supposedly go into a general fund for distribution to meet budget shortfalls. Roadwork, police, public school funding and other social services are just some of the programs that get funding. But in all honesty, I’m not sure just how effective that revenue stream is.

My colleague, Evan Berkowitz recently wrote a great commentary about the lottery, so I don’t want to repeat anything he has already stated.

I don’t plan on becoming a scratch ticket or lottery regular. The odds are against me! As in casinos, the house always has the edge and is set up to be profitable. That isn’t to say that people don’t win. They obviously do, but compared to what people spend, it is a losing proposition for the players as a whole.

I donated $50 to win $240 worth of scratch tickets, but I only won about $110 from those scratch tickets. So while I made a profit on the money I donated, it took $240 in scratch tickets to win that amount.

Scratching the dozens of various tickets was tedious and took a couple of hours to complete. The tickets prices ranged from $1 to $20 per ticket, and some required more of my attention than others. Matching numbers and letters, the first group of tickets yielded about $89 — or so I thought. When I cashed them in I got $84 and the guy behind the counter asked me if I wanted to use my winnings to buy more scratch tickets.

“No thanks!” I said as I took my winnings and walked out the door of the convenience store.

Some of the tickets I held onto because they needed further analysis and I learned that I won an additional $25. So I guess I made just more than $50 on my initial investment — my donation, that is.

It is tempting to try my luck again, but I simply won’t. It is too risky on so many levels. Money is hard to earn and easy to spend, especially with high inflation gripping our country and the world right now. Like many, I am trying to conserve in any way possible and spend less of my hard-earned money. Gambling of any kind undermines that.

As a child of the 1970s, my mom was always telling me to turn off lights when I left a room and close the doors. Those conservation tactics are with me today. Sometimes I sit in the dark with only the light from my computer screen. I turn off the lights when I leave a room and keep the thermostat low on my central heat. When I got my recent energy report from National Grid, it said I was doing “good.” While I wasn’t doing “great” (better than “poor”), my efforts are apparently making a difference even if it is still expensive.

So while it is tempting to play the lottery in the hopes that I might win big, I think I’m going to continue to be conservative. Spending wisely and consuming less is a more realistic goal. But if I ever do win more scratch tickets or get them as a gift, I’ll relish the thrill of the possibility of winning, without making the investment.

Gillian Jones, an Eagle visual journalist, is a regular contributor to the op-ed page. Her email is