Even Greater Odds

If the last post wasn't prescient enough, how about this? On June 12th, we wrote about Washington and Lee Business Professor Scott Hoover who announced he was filing a law suit against the Virginia Lottery because it sells scratch off tickets even after the top prizes are won, but without notifying the public. Last Friday, Dr. Hoover filed his lawsuit, seeking an $85 million refund for those who have bought scratch off tickets without any chance at all of winning the top prize (read entire Richmond Times-Dispatch article here). According to the T-D, his suit contends that the Virginia Lottery:

". . . markets and designs these tickets so that they all focus upon the top prize and promises the purchaser some chance to win it," but, over the past five years, "the lottery has regularly refused to pull tickets from at least 60 game orders after the final prize has been claimed," according to the suit filed by Roanoke lawyer John Fishwick Jr. on Hoover's behalf. (Emphasis added.)

Coincidence, serendipity, prescience by us or what, the business day after Dr. Hoover filed his suit in Richmond Circuit Court came word that New Jersey is doing the same thing! (Click here for USA Today article.) 

We're shocked! You mean there's corruption in state sponsored gambling in the land of Tony Soprano? According to the article, people paying $20 per ticket for the Garden State's "$1,000,000 Explosion" today have "Z-E-R-O . . . chance of winning the $1 million top prize" but the New Jersey Lottery will continue to sell these game tickets even though "the game won't end until July 21." (Emphasis added.)

In fact, according to USA Today:

The six top prizes were awarded months ago, but the $20 tickets are still on sale. The best prize available today is $10,000.

About half of the 42 states that have lotteries — including Florida, New Jersey, Michigan and Tennessee — keep selling tickets after the top prizes are gone. (Emphasis added.) The states say the practice is fair because lottery tickets and websites disclose the practice. Also, other prizes are available.

Sales of scratch-off lottery tickets have soared since the introduction of high-priced tickets designed to have huge jackpots — $1 million or more is common — that can be won instantly.

Governments are by their nature inefficient. To let them run gambling operations risks running that inefficiency into something still worse. That worse is what we now see in several states — including Virginia — an arrogance of purposely deceiving people, many of whom buy such game tickets on hope as much as cash. Separating unsuspecting people from that hope signals big government at its worst, preying on those it is charged with serving. Rather, we see governments and their desire to be served.