Q. I heard the legislature is working on ways to improve the lottery. Should I be worried?
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. Shes 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 Stams bill, youd 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 thats absolutely true, assuming you meet the following criteria:
• Youre a drooling imbecile.
Because the $25 million doesnt 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 youre so greedy as to want it all right now.
Q. Is that legal?
A. Only if youre 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, theres more.
Just because you bought the ticket from the government doesnt 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 theyll 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, theres sociological evidence that when you tell people theyre getting absolutely defrauded, they tend to put their money into more promising investments, like magic beans.
Q. Youve persuaded me. This Honest Lottery Act sounds horrible. What if it passes?
With an honest lottery, there are no winners.
Sort of like now.