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In My Opinion


How the ‘Honest Lottery Act’ threatens our civilization

By Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Q. I heard the legislature is working on ways to improve the lottery. Should I be worried?

A. Absolutely.

Rep. Paul Stam, an Apex Republican, has introduced the “Honest Lottery Act.” This could ruin everything.

Q. Who says?

A. Lottery director Alice Garland. She should know. She’s in charge of the North Carolina “Education” Lottery, whose goal it is to help every child learn to read by the ninth grade.

Q. What would an “honest” lottery involve?

A. Under Stam’s bill, you’d have to tell the truth about jackpots, for one thing. This would be absolutely ruinous. Garland estimates that telling people the truth about the jackpots would cost the “Education” Lottery about $40 million in sales.

You see, what happens is the “Education” Lottery tells players they can win a giant sack of green money if they buy a ticket. They calculate a jackpot number based on long experience, a complicated mathematical algorithm and precision input from their consultant, Stella the Spirit Tarologist.

For example, if you bought tickets for the next Mega Millions, you were told there was a $25 million jackpot. And that’s absolutely true, assuming you meet the following criteria:

•  You’re a drooling imbecile.

Because the $25 million doesn’t exist. You might get $25 million if you take a 20-year payout of the jackpot through an annuity, which you would do only if:

•  See above criteria.

No, you would go to the lottery office and tell them you want it rightthissecond. And they would look at you with pouty, sad faces and explain that you only get $14 million if you’re so greedy as to want it all right now.

Q. Is that legal?

A. Only if you’re an “Education” Lottery. A real business pulling something like that would get raided by the state, and everyone involved would be hauled away in gyves.

But, wait, there’s more.

Just because you bought the ticket from the government doesn’t mean you have to skip your patriotic privileges. You know the $14 million? Figure at least a quarter of that goes for taxes, probably more.

Q. How does the lottery director know that they’ll lose $40 million in sales if they tell people that the jackpot figures are just, like, totally bogus?

A. Remember that it is an “Education” Lottery, so by definition the people running it must be smart. She probably has a piece of paper with all sorts of numbers on it written by Stella the Spirit Tarologist and other key “Education” Lottery analysts.

Plus, there’s sociological evidence that when you tell people they’re getting absolutely defrauded, they tend to put their money into more promising investments, like magic beans.

Q. You’ve persuaded me. This “Honest Lottery Act” sounds horrible. What if it passes?

With an honest lottery, there are no winners.

Sort of like now.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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