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The class politics of Lotto

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, April 18th, 2011 - 129 comments
Categories: class war - Tags: ,

And those ridiculous bets you make…gambling is the finest thing a person can do if he’s good at it, but you haven’t won anything in months.

– Krusty the Klown’s accountant

Like all good Kiwis, I was watching American Idol on Saturday night when the Lotto draw came on. I haven’t seen a draw in years and they have this new ‘Winning Wheel’ where a lucky ticket holder from the previous draw gets to come in and spin a wheel to when a bunch of money. Before the big spin, there was a little video on the couple. From the Far North, they were low-income – he was a forest worker. They weren’t greedy for money but they recognised that whatever they won (I think the minimum was $100,000) would be life changing. They had been playing since Lotto began (1987 – which, at $10 a week is over $7,000) and the biggest win they had had before was $30. But that was all made up and more when they won $200,000, eh?

Except, of course, most people will never get to spin the Winning Wheel or win a big prize. Nearly everyone loses money in the long-run. Even the idea that Lotto effectively pools the players’ money and redistributes it in concentrated bundles to a few of them is false. Nearly half the money doesn’t go back to the players.

I find it to be no coincidence that the government established the Lotto Commission to run Lotto and Instant Kiwi during the Neoliberal Revolution, in 1986 and casinos were legalised duirng the same period in 1990. Just as the neoliberals were taking away the hope of working people to work their way to a decent level of wealth, they held out the false hope of gambling instead. So millions of people, seeing their incomes drop and their jobs disappear, see Lotto as a little hope of a circuit breaker. There’s no stats I can find on the income distribution of Lotto players but I know very few well-off people who play, it’s mostly people on low incomes. It makes sense – you can’t get ahead by normal means but invest a little money (which becomes a lot of money, week after week) and there is a slim chance that all your money woes will be things of the past. People have been conned out of a real route to wealth and offered an illusion in its place.

But, there’s a con within the con, because Lotto skims off 46% of ticket sales for operating costs, taxes, and Lottery Grants. $150 million of the $750 million in ticket sales last year went on grants decided by a Commission headed by former National Party President Judy Kirk with the three others all wealthy businessmen. There’s a hell of a lot of, for want of a better word, bourgeois stuff that gets funded from the money working people spend to get the possibility of a life-changing win.

If there’s some good news, it’s that the con doesn’t work forever. People get sick of paying all that money and rarely winning. That’s why Lotto keeps on introducing new games to revive excitement, and why the Winning Wheel has the new little video on the winners and you get to see them win right in front of your eyes – it makes the prospect of winning a lot more tangible. Still, ticket sales are falling – down over 16% in the last financial year.

– Bright Red

* It turns out the Winning Wheel has been around since 2004 – I really haven’t seen a draw in ages 🙂

129 comments on “The class politics of Lotto ”

  1. Santi 1

    What?  Lets ban gambling too! Immediately.

    • Bright Red 1.1

      Or, the actual message of the post: poor people gamble because modern capitalism denies them any other route out of poverty. Let’s not have the government making money out of poor people gambling on Lotto and appointing an elitist board to give 20% of the takings to their mates. Let’s have real routes to wealth instead.

      • Tigger 1.1.1

        Nice post.  There’s a stink of desperation around at the moment – ticket sales might be down but I suspect that’s because people can’t afford to buy tickets – even this road out of poverty is closed to them…

        • Vicky32

          I’ve never bought Lotto tickets – once in a while in the 80s, I’d buy a scratchie, but Lotto is just too random!
          I think people are just getting disillusioned.

          • J Mex

            “There’s no stats I can find on the income distribution of Lotto players but I know very few well-off people who play, it’s mostly people on low incomes.” – Guest poster

            Actually, Guest Poster, it looks like you are incorrect. According to this article:

            New Zealand’s most comprehensive gambling survey recently showed that Lotto players are typical of New Zealand society…

            51% are female, 49% male
            79% are Pakeha, 12% Maori, 4% Pacific Island and 3% Asian
            The most likely age of players is 25-34 years (21%), 35-44 years (22%) and 45-54 (18%)
            70% were employed, 3% were unemployed and 27% were “not in the labour force” (e.g. homemakers, indolent intellectuals)
            12% had a tertiary degree, 44% a trade qualification, 21% obtained their highest qualification from high school and 22% had no formal qualifications
            17% earned less than $20,000 per annum and 18% earned $70,001 or more.

            I can’t find a date on the article, but it references 1999 dates, so it must be in the 2000′s.

            Looks like proportionally as many “rich” people play lotto as “poor” people.

            Maybe your well off friends just don’t admit to buying lotto tickets?


            • Colonial Viper

              People on $80K p.a. or $100K p.a. know full well that they are also wage serfs/mortgage serfs.

              • J Mex

                I don’t know what that means or what your point is.


              • Jim Nald

                Yup. And they are kept reminded about that when they stop by the supermarket and petrol station, or pay their bills, esp power bills.

            • Puddleglum

              Actually, Guest Poster, it looks like you are incorrect.

              Not necessarily. More interesting would be how much was spent by different people each week on lotto (perhaps as a percentage of income). I’ve been in lotto queues and waited for many minutes behind people with multiple tickets.

              I know why I buy lotto tickets. Not to be wealthy. I do it in the hope that I might instantly become independent of the need to be employed (i.e., to not have to rent my body and mind). I’m also trying other ways to do this but figure the psychological experience of hope is worth the money for me.

              I agree with CV that even people with relatively high incomes have the experience of not being in control of their lives. Lotto provides the hope that they could be.

            • Jeremy

              It might be true that the demographic make up of those who buy Lotto tickets is a pretty accurate reflection of NZ as a whole. But back in the 80s when I asked the Lotteries Commission for figures all they had was a breakdown of who had bought a Lotto ticket in the last year. It didn’t have figures on how much people spend. I’m not alone in having noted queues in Flaxmere and Porirua but never in Khandallah or Havelock North. I think it’s fair to say Lotto is the most regressive tax in the country and that it’s proceeds benefit the better off – in the form of funding Creative NZ etc.

  2. todd 2

    Lotto is clearly another tax on the poor.  They changed the game a while ago so that less people win. The real crux of the matter is that most people believe that the money lotto makes goes back to the community. Only a small percentage finds its way to helping out communities that are poor, who consequently purchase most of the tickets. I’m in two minds as to whether there is any psychological worth in buying a ticket, in the hope that it will alleviate impoverishment. A lot of poor people have lost hope which in reality is all buying a lotto ticket gives you… I suppose false hope is better than no hope at all.

    • Jim Nald 2.1

      There’s hope that should kept real at the ballot box. The time is getting more pressing to vote for a Government with a spine and doesn’t talk in forked tongues.

    • Santi 2.2

      Tax on the poor, did you write?
      Who is forcing these people to buy Lotto tickets?  Have you heard the words self-control and responsibility for your own actions?

      • Puddleglum 2.2.1

        I often hear those words.

        They’re usually uttered by people who have no understanding of what it takes to develop self-control and what it takes to sorely test anyone’s self-control.

        In short, they’re usually uttered by people who have no sense of the realities that form and influence people’s behaviour. They, instead, seem to think that each person is simply a clone of themselves – then they make the judgment that ‘if I wouldn’t do it, others shouldn’t do it’. They don’t tend to have the impulse (or sense) to see that even they are not responsible for their own ‘responsibility’.

  3. infused 3

    Get over it. No one is forcing you to gamble. Huge numbers @ lotto were because of the massive powerball win. I never buy them, but for the 3 weeks leading up to the draw I was.

    • felix 3.1

      Nobody forces people to do all sorts of things that are ultimately harmful and wasteful to society, but so what?
      That doesn’t mean the state should be actively encouraging them either.

    • Colonial Viper 3.2

      Doesn’t infused know that they use brain scientists and psychologists to make gambling systems and gambling machines as addictive as possible?

      • Puddleglum 3.2.1

        And they (psychologists) have and they do.

        B.F. Skinner was the first to formalise the relationship known as ‘partial [or intermittent] reinforcement’. Laboratory studies with rats and pigeons show that behaviour that is reinforced every time is actually very susceptible to extinction (i.e., when the reinforcement stops, the behaviour ceases soon after).

        Reinforcing on a Variable Ratio schedule (i.e., on average, reinforcement occurs only once in so many behaviours – e.g., only 1 in 20 times, on average) is extremely resistant to extinction. Pokies are scheduled carefully to maximise the number of responses while limiting the number of reinforcing episodes (that helps to maximise profit).

        Then there’s all the work done on people’s gut intuitions about the odds. One finding is famously called the ‘gambler’s fallacy‘.

        And BR is right about the tangibility that comes from ‘live draws’ and the ‘Winning Wheel’ contestants who are profiled.

        The availability heuristic means that people will tend to think something is more likely to happen the more easily instances of it are brought to mind. Interestingly, so called inspirational role models of ‘aspirational’ people, in effect are attempts to skew people’s judgments towards over-estimating the likelihood of materially succeeding in life. Ever noticed all those magazines, radio interviews, etc. with people who ‘made it’. It’s the same manipulation as with lotto.

        It’s the same opium.

        Then again, what Marx actually said about religion and opium was:

        “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusion.

        It will take a very different kind of society for lotto to be a thing of the past. If you try to get rid of the ‘illusion’ of lotto (and its predecessors in New Zealand) without getting rid of the prevailing conditions which make lotto a solace, then you’ll be left with a vacuum that, if unfilled, will simply leave people uncosoled. Good for the pharmaceutical companies, I guess, who peddle their own, more literal, ‘opium’.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.3

      Get over it. No one is forcing you to gamble.

      National is wanting to put SOEs on the NZX in the gamble that it will be good for the economy when all the evidence is that it’s bad for the economy. That sounds remarkably like being forced to gamble.

      • infused 3.3.1

        It’s the same as the cullin fund isn’t it? That’s gambling, and ACC no? Please tell me how it’s any different.

  4. Tigger 4

    My god, how could we be so stupid.  All we had to tell those struggling to pay their bills was ‘get over it!’.

  5. Bill 5

    What’s with the ‘roads to wealth’ meme? Wealth is comparative and is deeply rooted in the creation of comparative poverty.
    I might be in a minority, but merely not being in poverty would suit me fine. Bugger wealth.
    But while, or because a majority are seeking ‘roads to wealth’, poverty ( mine included) will persist.
    The post reminded me of an incident on Byres Rd in Glasgow many moons ago when a young acolyte of one of the many leftist sects approached me with a pile of political newspapers and expounding a sincere sense of grievance over the material disparities within society.
    Anyway. A BMW passed on the road and I made some comment, effectively asking her if she reckoned everybody should have one. She reckoned so. And that’s when I walked away. One, because her sincerity seemed at that moment to boil down to jealousy and  two, because then as now, I’ve no interest in the trappings of material wealth.
    I agree that neo-liberalism spread more and comparatively deeper levels of poverty around. And I agree that desperation can lend itself to gambling on the never, never. But neo-liberalism and lotto or whatever aren’t the principle problems.

    For as long as ‘you’ want to be materially wealthier than ‘me’ or seek to attain some arbitrary level of financial or material security for yourself in comparison to me or whoever, then you are sustaining the zero sum game of market capitalism and ensuring that poverty runs rife.
    Neo-liberalism is merely a descriptive reason for poverty. The incisive reason lies in the conditioned motivations,…fears/hopes… of the majority.

    • Bright Red 5.1

      when I say ‘roads to wealth’ I don’t mean John Key-esque wealth.
      I mean being able to afford to own your own home.

      • Bill 5.1.1

        I know what you mean Red. But like I say, the focus on individual material well being pits the individual against all in a zero sum game.
        To own your own home entails somehow ‘getting ahead’ in the financial stakes. And ‘getting ahead’ means that you are partaking in a system of supposed wealth generation that actually produces poverty.
        What would be so wrong with everybody having a home to live in rather than striving to individually own a home? (Whatever ‘own’ might mean in the context where the house belongs to the bank until such times as you’ve paid the mortgage off in 20 or 30 years hence.)

        • Bright Red

          I’m suggesting that people want to get ahead and Lotto is a tiny chance to do that given that other routes are blocked.
          Whether you think that’s good or not doesn’t bear on whether people buy lotto tickets in the hope of escaping poverty.

          • Rusty Shackleford

            What is so great about owning a house (and having a crushing mortgage on a poor quality and overpriced house)?
            Some people have different priorities. If you want to write articles pointing out the stupidity of certain sectors of society, go nuts. But imposing your preferences, home ownership for example, on others is lame.

            • Bored

              Rusty, what is so great about owning your own home is that moment when you are not obliged to pay some other leach (aka banker or bank shareholder) the “rent” on the capital aka “interest”. That can take years, but it is oh so liberating.
              When you think logically about the way we pay for everything there is always the hand of the “capital” provider insisting on taking a cut. When you work the owner pays you less than your labour value that he can on charge.  When we try and get “rich” the hardest single barrier is to accumulate enough of our “saved labour” aka capital so that we can capture the surplus labour of others. The wealthy are wealthy simply because they have appropriated the labour of others, and the more you get of this the more you can get. Which is why the poor are poor.

              • Rusty Shackleford

                You never “own” your house. You have to pay rates on it, and if you don’t you will lose the house or some other amount of your “saved labour”.
                I prefer to look at it logically. I can pay a mortgage for most of my life, or pay rent most of my life. Which one is going to work out better in the long run? After you add in rates, maintenance etc a house can work out to be more expensive. If you are a baby boomer  it makes sense to have bought a house because of capital gains. I don’t see that persisting into the future.
                I don’t mind if someone is benefiting from my labour. As I benefit from other people’s labour.

                • Lanthanide

                  Alternatively, you should consider how easy it is to live on NZ Super when you are renting, or when you own your home.
                  captcha: differences

                  • RedLogix

                    You beat me to the same point Lanth. Super in this country has always been predicated on the assumption that by the time you reached retirement you would either own a home mortgage free or to have access to suitably low-cost social housing.
                    Unfortunately I’m seeing more and more people arrive at their mid-60’s who are falling into a widening gap between the two.
                    By all means rent, but you still have to plan for the long-term.

                  • Rusty Shackleford

                    I’m a little more aspirational than accepting my fate as a retiree on a state stipend. Further, I’m not advocating against home ownership. Perhaps in the future it will be right for me. But, it’s a different matter to advocate that every person should own a house. Which, in any case, renting IS a form of ownership.

                    Edit: RedLogix
                    Sound advice.

                    • Jim Nald

                      People will choose to rent or buy, depending on their financial, family, social and work circumstances.
                      As a purely financial decision, it may not be the best idea to buy a home. But, as some would testify, there may be other reasons for buying a home, eg non-monetary and indeed mental wellbeing.
                      The main concern presently is that housing is being priced out of reach and property speculation should be regulated.

                    • Vicky32

                      I’ve never wanted to own a house, ever. Until very recently, when I was forced to realise how insecure renting really is! A tenant can end up out on a whim, as happened to a friend recently. The compensation the tenancy tribunal eventually paid him doesn’t even begin to cover the huge distress he felt at being chucked out with a few hours’ notice…
                      It’s all very well to be compensated after the fact for the landlord’s violation of the Tenancy Act  – but at the time, it’s a terrible position to be in.

                • Bored

                  Rusty, we pay a socialized thing called rates, it’s a pain but I do get stuff. Renting or owning you end up paying heaps to somebody other than yourself for a dubious return. What I notice is that those who have lots invariably “own”, that’s how they stay rich.
                  As for not being concerned re making money from the labour of others I encourage everyone  to question which side of the ledger you exist on i.e how much you get from other peoples labour as opposed to how much you disburse of your labour to others? I would suggest that very few of us are in positive balance given that in NZ 10% of the population own 95%.
                  On a personal note I take the labour of others through my company, and capture “my” share in the form of profit. I have always found this slightly anomalous; those who “own” set the rules and take the most.

                  • Rusty Shackleford

                    As I said, you don’t really own the house if someone else can take it from you.
                    Rates are fine, you can move cities if you don’t like it (although, all districts have raised rates at a higher level than inflation over the last decade). Some of the things cities do, they shouldn’t be doing. Trash collection is more efficiently run on a privatised basis, for example.
                    I’m not sure if I produce more labour than I consume. I work for a public school, so there is no mechanism to measure that figure.

                    • Lanthanide

                      I don’t know about other areas, but Christchurch has a system in place for those in hardship to have their rates subsidised or waived entirely.
                      You can also pay less in rates by downsizing to a smaller/less valuable house.
                      I don’t see rates as a serious argument against home ownership, because landlords have to pay rates on the house you’re renting from them, so it’s factored into the rent that you’re paying.

                    • Herodotus

                      La- Some councils have this “deferral” system. But watch out as the charges can be applied against the property and the council has 1st tabs on the proceeds. Even, if memory serves me before the banks. But what one person is unable to pay is picked up by the rest as an increase in rates.
                      Like many posts people are failing to see the root cause. How anyone can survive on a pension is beyond me, so we end up with some of the most vunerable suffering in silence as they make do by cutting heating etc. Diverting a wee bit, but yet another sector of the pop. that is being abused by politicians and the rest of us.
                      Re Lotto (and casinos) they have done a wonderful job in distancing themselves from what they are Gambling. Not a great night out, or by buying a ticket your/our/my community benefits. It just covers some things that the govt would have to find funds for e.g. Lifesaving

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Trash collection is more efficiently run on a privatised basis, for example.

                      No it’s not you imbecile. It’s far more efficient to run trash collection directly through the council and to remove the profit motive. Doing so removes the added cost of profit.

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      Profit is evil right? Even if the business does it cheaper and better whilst still making a profit?

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Even if the business does it cheaper and better whilst still making a profit?

                      It’s actually impossible for the business to do it cheaper and so the profit and the businesses bureaucracy is merely an added expense.

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      I was going to write a well thought out post with examples and evidence. But why bother? Your statement is ridiculous on a basic level.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      I was going to write a well thought out post with examples and evidence. But why bother?

                      Translation: You can’t actually find any proof to support your statement.
                      Trash collection, no matter how you do it, will take up

                      1.) X amount of trucks, drivers and time
                      2.) X amount of fuel and truck maintenance
                      3.) X amount of administrators

                      To have a private business doing that rather than the council directly means that you’ve added costs on to the council in the form of more bureaucracy (the council has to maintain some administrators for trash collection anyway) and profit.
                      Your whole argument goes back to the delusional statement made by RWNJs and neo-liberal economists that private business can do it better and cheaper and even the Treasury is starting to question that BS because there is no evidence to support it.

                    • PeteG

                      Of course if you knew anything about business and if you knew anything about the efficiencies of public services you would know that “X” is very variable. So is the type of trucks. So is the productivity of workers. So is the efficiency of operations. Add to that the economies of scale that can occur when a service is contracted that is also provided elsewhere and the theory that a simple equation of public cost + profit = private cost is naive nonsense.
                      Why do councils contract rubbish collection services? To deliberately add costs to rates?

                    • rosy

                      “Why do councils contract rubbish collection services? To deliberately add costs to rates?”

                      Oohh I know…Because they don’t want to be seen as responsible for rates rises. Much easier to have the private company taking the flak for “greed” than the council having to argue the case for rising costs. Of course the private company owners don’t care – their job is to make as much profit out of essential services that the tender process allows.

                    • Armchair Critic

                      Why do councils contract rubbish collection services? To deliberately add costs to rates?
                      As a detached observer of the processes at the time, I concluded the move to contract out rubbish collection was driven by:
                      (a) political expedience, and
                      (b) ideology.
                      The financial arguments could have worked either for or against.

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      If you think govt bureaucrats work with perfect efficiency, then I don’t know what I can tell you.

                    • Bored

                      Rusty, as a paid employee I can pretty much gaurantee you are on the wrong side of the divide. Myself as an employer, well I am better placed than you. So long as you find it fair and equitable be my guest as my kind capitalise your future to our exclusive benefit.
                      With the surplus capital from yours and other peoples labour I think it best to tender for a rubbish collection contract. Nice profits as I push down wages and cut safety and environmental corners. Now lets see, with thhe extra accumulated capital a villa in Hawaii perhaps.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      If you think govt bureaucrats work with perfect efficiency, then I don’t know what I can tell you.

                      It’s not a question of government bureaucrats working perfectly but any bureaucrats working perfectly. They don’t work any better when they work for a private company and yet that’s the assumption you have.

                    • Rusty Shackleford


                      As I said, I’m a public school teacher (not in NZ), so it isn’t possible to measure how much I produce. I don’t feel exploited and there are other facets of my job, other than pay, that work as fringe benefits. Time to study during the day, and 9 weeks of vacation for instance. 

                      I don’t consider the minimum wage to be low. I wouldn’t want to be on it, but it is higher than the so called “surplus labour”, as we seem to be calling it, for some employees. Especially the young. Frankly, if you are cutting environmental corners (ie breaking the law) I would hope you would be prosecuted to the fullest extent (though I know that rarely happens). 

                      There are downsides to being a capital owner. It depreciates. Someone else can undercut you. Your business model can become obsolete. Thanks to unionisation, my skills are relatively transferable and there are high barriers to entry. Any contract I enter into is completely voluntary, therefore I don’t care if my employer earns a dime off the back of my labours. What am I going to do? Build a school?

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      If a private company employs inefficient managers they will be undercut by a firm that doesn’t. If a publicly run firm hires inefficient managers, they get more cash thrown at them.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Rusty Shackleford
                      As I said, pure delusion on your part. A good manager does their job well – no matter the location. A bad manager does badly no matter the location and, as studies have shown, NZ managers in private companies are the worst in the world.

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      I haven’t read the studies, but I’m unwilling to disagree with your assessment of private management in NZ. How about some studies of the virtues of NZ public managers?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      If a publicly run firm hires inefficient managers, they get more cash thrown at them.

                      Bollocks. When did this happen last? Oh, unless you are talking AMI insurance of course.
                      You have a real short attention span, you know that?

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      ? AMI should go out of business.

                      Enron. GM should have gone out of business. The barber shop down the street from me.  Pets.com. A metric butt-ton of banks. 

            • Bright Red

              “Some people have different priorities”
              It’s not a question of priorities for many though, is it? They don’t have the money to have the choice

              • Rusty Shackleford

                Maybe if they saved $20 a week instead of blowing it on lotto tickets, they might be able to afford the luxury of higher priorities. Although, I agree the OP. Lotteries should be run on an entirely private basis. ; )

                • Colonial Viper

                  Hey Rusty what home spending priorities do you think Key should have with his publicly funded extra $1000 p.w. tax cut?
                  Or are you here to dictate only to the poor because the rich have earned the right to do whatever they want?

                  • Rusty Shackleford

                    I’m not dictating anything to anyone. Just making suggestions. You and your ilk are the ones wanting to dictate terms to people.

          • Bill

            BR. Agreed.

        • Psycho Milt

          Material well-being isn’t a zero-sum game, and poverty isn’t a virtue.

          • Bill

            Material well being is simply material well being.
            But its attainment in the context of market capitalism ( which insists on individual well being) involves partaking in a zero sum game.
            And poverty is a pain in the arse.

            • Psycho Milt

              <i>…its attainment in the context of market capitalism ( which insists on individual well being) involves partaking in a zero sum game.</i>
              I suspect the workers of 200 years ago would beg to differ, if they could view the “poverty” you’re living in now.  Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but working-class movements put a lot of time and effort the last couple of centuries into seeing to it that market capitalism doesn’t get to insist on individual well-being.

              • Bill

                If workers from 200 years ago viewed today’s poverty in NZ in the context of today, then I don’t see what they’d disagree about.
                And if they viewed today’s poverty in India or China or the Philippines or Brazil or any other number of countries from their 200 year old context, then again, I don’t know what they’d disagree about.
                Just as individuals get ahead at the expense of others, so larger economic units…national economies or companies…get ahead at the expense of others.

                Nothing has changed in that respect over the past 200 years.

                The poverty we are looking at is relative PM, not absolute. And I’m well aware of gains made by the working class organising ourselves. And I’m well aware the tide is going out on those gains thanks to the persistent asymmetry of power in society and the market .

                • Very well put Bill.

                • The poverty we are looking at is relative PM, not absolute.
                  On this we agree.  However, it’s still not obvious how a zero-sum game could have made poverty in this day and age something that would have been considered astonishing wealth 200 years ago – unless it isn’t a zero-sum game.  Which it isn’t, to a great extent thanks to working-class movements having imposed significant limitations on capitalism over that time.  It wouldn’t kill you to acknowledge the fact.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Material well-being isn’t a zero-sum game,

            Yes it is. There are limits to what we can draw from the planet/environment to feed and house people. This means that there’s a limit to our material well-being that can simply be defined as (Renewable Resource Base)/(Number of People). The more people we have the less material well-being.
            Anthropogenic Climate Change and loss of natural habitats resulting in massive species loss is proof that we’ve gone beyond those limits. Within this century we are all going to be very, very poor in relation to today but, in NZ at least, nobody will have live in poverty – if we have a viable and sustainable socio-economic system.

            • Rusty Shackleford

              I think what you just said boils down the statist and anti-statist positions.

              Statists see the world as finite. Anti-statists tend not to. If all the assets were divided equally amongst all people, there would be something like $3million worth of goods for every person on earth (those resources would probably, quickly, recentralise themselves) . The universe is infinite. Why can’t life also be such? Earth’s resources are obviously finite but human ingenuity and will power is obviously infinite, in my opinion.

              Energy is the problem to solve (and I have faith someone will. Maybe it will be a govt, but I’m not holding my breath). Behind evergy unit of output there is a unit of energy. There are heaps of clean energy sources. One or a few of which will emerge to replace oil. Perhaps thorium reactors. Perhaps solar technology will progress.  Wind is a joke. No one can pick what will be the dominant energy source. It is wasteful to try. 

              As an aside. I have always envisioned the future of solar thusly. Solar panels are never going to be viable because they don’t work 70% of the time. If I possessed the technology, I would park an array of panels at some safe distance from the sun and pipe the energy back to Earth. This would mean electricity would be produced continuously and wouldn’t need to be stored as with traditional solar energy.

              • Adele

                Teenaa koe, Rusty

                The universe is infinite. Why can’t life also be such? Earth’s resources are obviously finite but human ingenuity and will power is obviously infinite, in my opinion

                Nah.  Human capacity is limited by human nature – the mentality that limits our potential to survivalist thinking only.   

                • Rusty Shackleford

                  In 100 years when every person on earth lives at the level we do now, I guarantee you lot (or your descendants) will still be harping on about inequality.

                  • Adele

                    Teenaa koe, Rusty Shack

                    You obviously are not aware of the population predictions for this country for the next 50 years or so but it won’t be Maaori whining about inequality in this country.

                    • Rusty Shackleford

                      I wasn’t talking about Maori people by saying “you lot”. I was talking about the whinging, middle class wankers on this site. I don’t think I have ever heard a poor Maori person complain about inequality. It’s usually middle class whites and politically connected rich Maori.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I don’t think I have ever heard a poor Maori person complain about inequality.

                      Yeah you clearly hang out in the wrong places.

                    • felix

                      Rusty doesn’t know any poor maori. Of course he hasn’t heard maori complaining about inequality or anything else.

                  • Vicky32

                    In 100 years when every person on earth lives at the level we do now, I guarantee you lot (or your descendants) will still be harping on about inequality.

                    Wow, you’re an optimist! Somehow, I can’t see that happening at all, much less in 100 years.
                    It takes much more than ‘faith’ for that to happen.

  6. JJ 6

    I was going to buy a ticket in the 32mil draw just recently, i hardly ever buy a ticket and they told me the cheapest ticket was $13!! I said forget it, I’d rather keep my money LOL

    I don’t know anything about bourgeois or whatever, but for most people on low incomes Lotto represents pretty much the only escape, now that working hard and saving are pretty much impossible for any family earning less than 100k a year…

    National sure sucks, but then again so do Labour. Most of this neo-liberal bollix was started by them.

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      You can buy individual lines, with the minimum being 4 lines I believe, for $3.60.

      • freedom 6.1.1

        minimum four boards at 60 cents a board = $2.40
        powerball per board at 60 cents a board = $2.40
        total minimum spend to play Lotto with powerball = $4.80
        i normally play the basic $2.40, i play powerball  infrequently on the big draws.
        I have always viewed Lotto as voluntary taxation, but believe a far larger cut of the Lotto income should go the the grants

  7. lprent 7

    When I was doing the MBA at Otago in 1985, one of the lecturers on stats was involved with the analysis of setting up lotto. One of the exercises was to analyze the public aspects of the scheme’s outcomes statistically.

    Consequently  I have never brought a ticket.

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      I only ever buy tickets when they have must-be-won draws, or the additional cash prizes (as they are doing at the moment for easter).

      The only prizes worth winning are 1st and 2nd division, and 3rd division powerball (but that of course you are 10 times less likely to win). 2nd division can often end up being only a few thousand dollars at that. When they have the extra prizes, and for easter they are doing 100 extra prizes with 90 of them being $10,000, your odds are considerably higher for winning a prize that’s a worthwhile sum that’ll make a difference to your life.

      • lprent 7.1.1

        That will increase your odds. But I’ll bet that it doesn’t improve them too much.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Of course it doesn’t – gambling is, after all, about centralising huge sums of money which is then directed by a few people.

          hmmmm, that sounds like a good description of the share-market.

    • terry 7.2

      That sounds spectacularly interesting. Do you suppose you could elaborate somewhat? TIA

      • lprent 7.2.1

        Can’t remember the details too clearly – it was 25 years ago! But in essence I calculated I could make a better return on investment doing almost any other activity. 

        My alternate hypothesis was that I spent the same amount of money to pan for gold in central otago – I’d lose less money doing that.

        • terryg

          Ah well, thanks for trying. Lotto, like speeding tickets, is little more than a tax on the ignorant. Still, the peasants have their soma and circuses, hopefully they wont pay any attention…..

          • nadis

            You don’t need to be a genius to work out lotto odds.
            First way to look at is if 54% of gross revenue is returned as prizes, then your expected value from investing 1 dollar is 54 cents.
            In terms of odds, the probability of winning first division is selecting 6 numbers correctly (but in any order) out of 40. That is 1 chance in 3.8  million.  Add in Powerball, you have 1 chance in 38.4 million.
            So actually, it is statistically rational to play powerball when the total prize pool gets up above 38.4 million as the payoff > 1.  The only flaw is it’s not distributed evenly…..
            I seem to remember lotto re-jigging their lower division winning odds a bout a decade ago.  What they did was reduce the expected payout at Division 5 and 4 and by definition increase the number of winners at that level.  Like a drug dealer, keep ’em hooked with little tastes.
            I don’t think lotto is the problem – it doesn’t really have the impulse gratification – the real problem is pokies and scratchies.  They should be banned, if not at national level then at local council level.  They suck way more money out of communities than they ever put in.  Or at least restrict grants to local areas.  and the argument about community grants from pokies in general is bullshit.  It’s creating a self-gratifying industry of vested interests with no real economic value based on addiction.

            • terryg

              nope you dont – you just need to be numerate, and to know the rules (I dont).
              for anyone who is interested, this is a Combinatorial problem, where
              the order is relevant; the formula is n!/(r!(n-r!)) where !=factorial
              n = total no. of balls, r = no. of balls picked.
              translated into english:
              40 numbers. randomly picking the first ball, odds = 1/40.
              the 2nd ball – odds = 1/39 (only 39 left)….
              so picking 6 balls the odds are one in (40*39*38*37*36*35)
              n! = n*(n-1)*(n-2)…*1
              thats the n!/(n-r)! = 40!/(40-6!)
              that gets us 6 balls. but they need to be the CORRECT 6 balls. and thats where the r! term comes in.
              More importantly, your Expectation calculation is lovely, and says it all right there.
              The skewed distribution reminds me of something I thought of a while back – how to game Lotto, from the Lotto boards perspective:
              the distribution of selected numbers is pretty much dead flat – it truly is random and independent.
              Therefore selecting a highly skewed distribution for “randomly” calculated “lucky dip” lines will minimise the likelihood of a payout.
              reductio ad absurdum – if all lucky dips always pick 1 2 3 4 5 6 then you’re not very likely to win eh?
              and as a lazy person, whenever I play lotto (E>1) I use their automagic selection because its just not worth the time taken to manually fill in numbers. hence the thought…
              the great thing is, the only way to tell if this is happening is to look at the distribution of numbers in lucky dip tickets – something that while possible (clearly the information does exist), its just not feasible without the assistance of Lotto.
              I contemplated an “exit polling” strategy, but really just couldn’t be arsed – its easier to not buy tickets (unless E(lotto)>1;)
              AIUI you are correct scratchies and pokies are worse (suck more $ from the economy), but that doesn’t make lotto “good”
              before I studied engineering I used to repair video & gaming machines. That was enough to put me off gambling for life. when you put money into a pokie, it drops into the payout hopper – unless its full, then it drops into the cashbox, to be retrieved by the owner. And as for odds – remember, these are NOT random they are, at best, pseudo-random numbers. That are then filtered – EVERY gaming machine has adjustable payout odds. Hell the Golden Poker machines I used to fix had internal little on/off switches for royal flush down to and including two pair.
              Try shining a VERY bright light thru scratchy tickets – you might be surprised what you can see. It certainly used to work for the old AVAGO cards……many operators used to pre-screen the tickets, and pull out the big winners.
              yes the people who haemorrhage money on these things are idiots.
              No I dont think it is OK to rip people off just because they are stupid.
              PS I,too, am  peasant.

              • r0b

                Huh. Interesting!

                • terryg

                  n!/(r!(n-r!)) –> n!/(r!(n-r)!)
                  the explanation is right, I just hit “)” before “!” when typing.
                  [this sort of shit does not help when learning maths. sorry]
                  “are stupid” –> “do stupid things”
                  IMO few people really are stupid. everybody does stupid things though. Lots of people are, however, ignorant (we all are, each in our own special way), which is simultaneously tragic and repairable.
                  unless, of course, NACT continue to asset-strip ECE and averything else that might possibly be helpful.Grrrr.
                  Actually those talentless fools in Labour are what really gets my goat – how shit do you have to be, to be useless in the face of NACT? FFS!

                  • r0b

                    Do you ever turn your hand to the analysis of economic / socioeconomic data? We’re looking for lefties with that kind of background who might consider the odd guest post or two…

                    • terryg

                      hi r0b,
                      I know next to nothing about economic & socioeconomic theory, but once you have the raw data, the maths is easy (note: easy = stuff one can do. hard = stuff one cant do. drawing a somewhat lifelike face is so hard as to be impossible for me. Calculus, however…).
                      getting the data – that i suspect is the really hard part.
                      as far as guest posts – I dont have anything of interest to say, that can be said in less than a few hundred thousand words.
                      EVERYTHING is inter-related, and I for one am NOT HAPPY with the role I, personally, play in maintaining slavery, famine, war and poverty, death and destruction throughout the world. Got a smartphone? you too are responsible for events in the Congo. buy Gap clothing? Bangladeshi & Burmese (IIRC) blood is on your hands. the list goes on…..
                      that being said, I’m happy to crunch numbers for you – you have my email addy. I can, for example, easily put together a defibrillator, which might perhaps revive the corpse we use in lieu of Phil Goff [oh dear god, Labour thru their incompetence are going to let NACT win the next election. and people think life is tough now – ha!]. 600J? 6PJ wouldn’t do it
                      cue Monty Pythons fliegander zirkus: phil goff wouldnt voom if you put 4 million volts through him, he’s ceased to be (relevant). Bereft of leadership, he’s joined the choir invisible

                    • r0b

                      terryg – watch out for an email some time soon.

    • Bored 7.3

      Bloody hell 1prent, you admit to an MBA? Corporate Jesuit, may God have mercy……

      • lprent 7.3.1

        Oh yeah, you didn’t know that? Quite enjoyed it as well because I found most of it was like being in the family discussions – pretty easy.

        But they had a lab full of IBM PC’s donated by IBM for the MBA students and that was where I spent most of my time giving myself a rapid education into the little buggers. By the time I’d left the MBA I’d decided that management was nowhere near as interesting as coding and I really really didn’t want my life split up into small reactive chunks that is the lot of managers.

        Of course this was a continuing theme of my past – I would get pretty well trained in something and then get bored with it. My first degree was a BSc in Earth Sciences. Late in the degree I realized that to become more than a bottle washer, I’d have to continue on to getting a PhD, and that being a permanent student of science for many years before I could do anything interesting was unappealing. So I started doing management courses as well and got a management scholarship to Ceramco to pay for the last year at uni.

        Since then I have generally avoided vocational degrees on the general basis that doing them caused me to change careers, and since I liked programming I wouldn’t let university lecturers bore me out of it.

        • Jim Nald

          Halleluia! And thus was the humble seed planted for many projects, one of which was to grow into The Standard.

        • Bored

          Im delighted by your realisation. I too have degrees never used for employment purposes. Whats worse is being a manager by default, having MBAs etc around me who have’nt got a practical clue……yawn. Programming..now thats a good lurk.

          • lprent

            I have had to exercise my considerable skills and moderate experience in management many times to ensure that I remain programming. For some reason the managers seem to think that all good programmers want to go into managing other people. Urrgh…

  8. Carol 8

    They also promote and market Lotto aggressively, especially to those who have little.  In west Auckland there’s a prominent desk promoting Lotto visually & selling tickets as you go into a supermarket.
    On TV they address the viewer directly, creating the impression, pandering to the dream, that they are going to be the one to win, and asking them to think about what they will do with the money.

    • Bored 8.1

      Oh what it is to aspire, to dream of untold material wealth and comfort, more than you can ever use, aspire, aspire!!! Be like Shonkey, have a security gate to keep out the low life…….

    • Lanthanide 8.2

      Also, and someone has pointed this out before a while ago on this blog, they advertising it as “gaming”, with signs saying things such as “Play here!”.
      They don’t call it “gambling”.

  9. g_man 9

    “But, there’s a con within the con, because Lotto skims off 46% of ticket sales for operating costs, taxes, and Lottery Grants. $150 million of the $750 million in ticket sales last year went on grants decided by a Commission headed by former National Party President Judy Kirk with the three others all wealthy businessmen. There’s a hell of a lot of, for want of a better word, bourgeois stuff that gets funded from the money working people spend to get the possibility of a life-changing win.”
    By “bourgeois stuff” I take it you mean the:
    $84,000 that Refugees as Survivors NZ received
    $13,200 that the Disabled Persons Centre Trust received
    $500,000 that Youthline Auckland received
    $46,827 granted to the Wellington School of Medicine, University of Otago, for research into sleep-related breathing conditions
    The various grants given to people with disabilities to buy mobility scooters
    $55,000 granted to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter
    Age Concern grants
    Arthritis NZ grants
    Alzheimers Society grants
    Autism NZ grants
    Brain Injury Association grants
    Diabetes NZ grants
    Multiple Sclerosis Society grants
    and many others that anyone can look up.

    • Bright Red 9.1

      “By “bourgeois stuff” I take it you mean…”
      no, I mean the bourgeois stuff.

      • rosy 9.1.1

        Nothing Lotto has funded is as bad as the pub in South Auckland that used pokies money to fund a playground…… outside the pub.

        Lotto is not great, but in terms of evil this stuff vitriol should be directed at operators of pokie machines – from the local pub right up to the casinos. One of the best advertising campaigns I ever saw was the one on the Auckland buses a number of years ago when the sky tower was depicted as a junkies injection. I still won’t set foot in that place thanks to that ad.

        • Jum

          Auckland South, Rosy, Auckland South.

          • rosy

            Auckland South? Is that real estate agent talk?

            • Jum

              No, Rosy; it’s when Franklin was dragging kicking and screaming into Auckland, its assets stolen and being used for tupperwakas.

              Then Melissa Lee told Q and A that South Aucklanders were all criminals and shouldn’t be allowed near Mount Albert, never mind the real criminals are sitting in government now.

              Then South Aucklanders found out about JKeyll’s plan to bulldoze through greenbelts and build gated communities and slums for the poor.

              So Auckland Council decided to call areas Auckland North, Auckland East…

              The only upside was getting Len Brown instead of National’s ex-police minister.

              It won’t stop JKeyll, Hide and English stealing New Zealanders’ assets and the stupid National supporters of Franklin voting him in again to betray them by selling off their assets. Stupid.

              Politics is a gamble, so Kiwis bet on a gambler but we already know that professional gamblers like Key only share the losses, but jet out with the winnings.

              • rosy

                Ahh. Knew there was a story there…  I’ll be checking out how the Auckland family members use it. I suspect South Auckland will be the pejorative term for Otara, Flat Bush etc, elsewhere south will be known as Auckland South.

                And Franklin’s big problem seems to be being labelled South Auckland – otherwise they wouldn’t be getting over the asset grab and they’d not be voting NAct this year. Nice one.

  10. ianmac 10

    I did buy a powerball ticket for $34mil. But after careful reflection I was pleased that I didn’t win because the huge amount of money would be a disaster. If I kept it secret I couldn’t buy much unobtrusively. If it was known in the family who gets what and what if it wasn’t a fair distribution? And if it was well known imagine the begging and the change of attitude with previous friends and acquaintances. (Relatives who were paid out multi-millions after selling their software, put the money in a trust so any applications for money were separate from the family.) And anyway my tastes are simple so what would I spend it on?
    And would I tell my wife or not? Umm no. But might leave the residue in my will. Surprise dear!

    • J Mex 10.1

      <blockquote> I was pleased that I didn’t win because the huge amount of money would be a disaster </blockquote>

      Doesn’t make much sense to me, ianmac.

      If you don’t want the money then you can feel good and use the money for charitable means if you don’t want the money. 

  11. J Mex 11

    “There’s a hell of a lot of, for want of a better word, bourgeois stuff that gets funded from the money working people spend to get the possibility of a life-changing win.”

    I call bullshit on that. Any scan through of a list of Lottery grants is a list that any progressive government supporter would be happy to see the government support.

    You can see an old list – 


    • Bright Red 11.1

      I’m not saying there’s not lots of worthy stuff getting grants but there’s a lot of stuff that’s very much for the well-to-do on that list as well.
      I’m of the opinion that it would be better if NGOs, worthy or not, weren’t reliant on poor people gambling to get their funding.

      • Draco T Bastard 11.1.1

        Yep. Personally, I’d prefer to see the government just properly fund everything. It’s cheaper due to the lack of advertising expenses and it means that everything will always have enough to meet its needs unlike the gambling way which is, by its very nature, unstable.

      • J Mex 11.1.2

        Bright Red, can you provide a few examples of all the “bourgeois stuff that gets funded from the [lotto grant] money”

  12. Campbell Larsen 12

    The issue is the same as with all charity ‘collection’ – collection and admin fees gobbling up funds that should instead be returned to the community. Meanwhile instead, the lotto ads keep getting slicker and slicker (and more and more expensive) Shame.

    • J Mex 12.1

      7% of the funds go to admin, 7% to the retailer, while 86% makes it back to the community or government via prizes, grants and tax.

      This hardly seems excessive, I would have thought.

      • higherstandard 12.1.1

        don’t try talking sense on a political blog the trolls will gorge on your spleen.

        • Steve Withers

          higherstandard: There is sense and then there is sense. 

          Sense is not buying lottery tickets. You have a better chance of robbing a bank and getting away with it….and more control over the odds.

          Lotto – and gambling generally – is for mugs.

        • J Mex

          I don’t really understand some of the writers on The Standard – ‘Gambling: It’s all – bourgeois and a cabal of wealthy businessmen in some shady business designed to keep the poor wage serfs under their boot’.

          No. It’s gambling. Gambling has probably been around as long as their have been humans. It wasn’t invented by capitalists, it’s thrived under tribal societies, communists, dictators and pretty much every known possible grouping of people. Gambling games, that we know, have been huge for more than 3500 years, in all social sectors.

          Put three guys on a desert island and as soon as they are feed clothed and sheltered, you will probably start seeing some gambling of some description start to work it’s way in. Some people are wired for thrill seeking, some aren’t. Some people get a huge adrenaline kick out of gambling – (some get a huge cortisol kick in the nuts).

          Governments of all hue have sort to control, and tax gambling. For the income as much as any social conscience.

          If you really want to help the next generation avoid possible gambling poverty, push for more financial education in schools. I didn’t get any when I went through school. Nobody explained an interest rate, a credit card, a mortgage. Nobody taught compounding interest (with any practical application).

          The best thing we could possibly do to help the poor in regards to gambling, would be to explain to them, when they are children, how lotto and pokies and scratchies work. Show how every time you put a dollar in a pokie machine, you get 60c back. Show that how you do that for an hour or two $200 has gone. Explain that $200 might be 16 hours hard work. Explain that over time they will always lose, no matter how clever they think they are.

          Want adults to understand that lotto isn’t their friend? Teach them at school. Maybe run a lotto simulator? Here’s one that simulated me buying one ticket a week for 38,468 years and didn’t win division one once, and lost tens of millions of dollars. http://justwebware.com/notalot/notalot.html

          But we don’t teach this stuff to our kids in schools. We teach plenty of stuff that kids are never going to need in their lives, but we don’t teach them basic money concepts – which they are all going to run in to, knowledgeable or not. We expect them to learn off their parents. Problem is, many parents don’t understand it.

          All this “capitalism = gambling = bad” stuff is bullshit. Gambling is a human condition. It is apolitical. Give everyone the same about of money today in a utopia and you’ll have gambling, sex and drinking that night. It is in our collective (but not always individual) nature. The best you can do is to warn and educate our children about it – which, to my knowledge, we don’t do enough of.

          • Vicky32

            The best thing we could possibly do to help the poor in regards to gambling, would be to explain to them, when they are children, how lotto and pokies and scratchies work.

            We teach plenty of stuff that kids are never going to need in their lives, but we don’t teach them basic money concepts – which they are all going to run in to, knowledgeable or not. We expect them to learn off their parents. Problem is, many parents don’t understand it.

            Thing is, poverty isn’t always generational! There are poor adults who came from middle class households, and who don’t like being patronised and treated as ignorant.
            My son the maths nerd did grow up in a poor household, and has a better understanding of statistics etc than I ever did – he was president of the maths club.
            My completely uneducated immigrant father had no problem grasping the issue, and always told us “gambling’s a mug’s game”. It was my mother who came from a wealthy background who couldn’t manage money..

      • Campbell Larsen 12.1.2

        Doesn’t seem excessive – until one takes into account the sums of money involved – 7% of hundreds of millions of dollars per year is a lot of money that people that can’t afford the loss don’t have in their pockets – which illustrates the real issue – which is as Draco pointed out – the fact that charity is and always will be a poor substitute for adequate central govt funding.

        Gambling does nothing good for society – doesn’t take a genius (or a mathematician) to figure that one out.

      • Colonial Viper 12.1.3

        Does “making it back to the community” include horse racing and piss ups at the local club?
        Frankly, gambling is a bleeding sore on the ass of society. Plenty of fun for a lot of people, plenty of misery and desperation for many as well.

      • freedom 12.1.4

        you are joking right?  you really believe 86 % of Lotto income goes into the community?
        try 76% , and i have suspicions on that number as well

  13. I’ve won over $5,700 at Lotto. At least. 

    Thats what it adds up to if you work out how much money I’ve kept in my pocket by NOT buying a Lucky Dip every week for roughly 22 years.  

    If I didn’t buy a Powerball as well then I’d have “won” well over $10,000…and so on.

    The real winners are the people who don’t buy the tickets.  The more you DIDN’T buy…..the more you won.

    • Bored 13.1

      Steve, I hope that you invested it wisely in some fund that Shonkey bailed out including all due interest. Now thats the kind of “gamble” the Nats make available to their people.

  14. Whats the funniest thing here is that people still play the lotto now that gas has gone up to $4.00 a gallon.  Need money America? Fire all the old people here in Fl and give them a social security boost until they pass away, give their jobs to the younger folk and legalize marijuana and tax it to pay for health care, duh!

    • freedom 14.1

      it looks like one of the blogbots has got its gps data wrong, and published the US version of this comment instead of the NZ version.
      nice to see propoganda machines are as prone to errors as everybody else

      • lprent 14.1.1

        Yeah it is likely to be a bot but could also be a human.

        We eliminate 99% of them at one level or another (there are over a 100k comments that have been discarded as spam). There are a range of IP’s that we just don’t accept from mostly in Russia or China because of previous bombardment. Anti-spam gets most of those remaining. Then they have to be let through the first-time comment moderation (you have to have a comment accepted before further comments are accepted automatically) and weh usually discard between 10 and 50 per day.

        The very very few that get through are the cream of the breed because they look human. It looks like this one wrote a comment that was relevant enough that a moderator let it through at some stage.

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