When I was a young man, gambling was not only illegal, but to the sanctimonious and self righteous, it was considered immoral as well.
Of course, all that changed once the state put the little guys out of business and took over the role of the head hustler and bookie. So now instead of having to sneak bets with the underworld, we can get ripped off legally by the government itself. And they're not the least bit shy or even tasteful about encouraging us to do so.
Take the radio ads about the lottery. A typical example goes something like this:
"Hi Scooter, how you doin?"
"Just great, Biff. And you want to know why?"
"It's because I've been playing the latest New York Lottery game Shmuck-O."
"Shmuck-O? What's that?"
"Oh, it's a whole lot of fun and I can win a hundred thousand dollars, a million dollars or even twenty-hundred-billion dollars!"
"Wow! Can I play Shmuck-O too?"
"Of course. Thanks to the New York Lottery, everyone can play Shmuck-O."
So there you have it - what, 35 years ago was illegal and faintly immoral, is now legal, a laugh riot, and if the ads are to be believed, a darn good investment too.
A great start
I know the rationale behind the lottery is to raise money for public education, and it does that. But let's get real - if the state is raises money and then gives it away, you can best believe they'll also take a hefty chunk for themselves. And the lottery is no exception.
So can I think up a better way to raise money for education? Not only can I, but I have.
It's my own lottery - The Big Zip. Vastly simpler and superior to the system we now have, it's also unique in that it's the only lottery in history to give away 100 percent of its gross profits.
Here's how it works:
First, there's no bureaucracy or infrastructure - I'm the sole employee and an unpaid one at that. After it gets bigger and the logistics get more complicated, I may get an assistant, but they won't get paid either (my first choice would be Kooky, since she thought up the Big Zip's name).
Next, tickets. This is a real sore point with me, since they obviously cost money to print and a whole lot of them end up littering the landscape thanks to sore losers. Well, this won't happen with The Big Zip, since there won't be any tickets. Or more exactly, there won't be any printed, official type tickets. Instead, the players will name their own number (or if they want, a number/letter combination) and I'll write it up on the spot on a small piece of recycled paper, which they can keep as a souvenir.
Another unique attribute of my lottery: Since I realize some people have difficulty controlling their gambling impulses, no one would be allowed to buy more than 10 chances per week.
Advertisements? Forget it, no such thing. Aside from them costing a small fortune, I find them insults to our intelligence, and patently disingenuous to boot. So promotion of The Big Zip will be by word-of-mouth, local bulletin boards, and cyberspace's best Bunk's Place.
and best of all
And now the ultimate reason for The Big Zip's success, there'll be no winners!
So who would play the lottery if there're no winners? The way I figure it, darn near everybody.
As the state lottery is now run, a bunch of the gross never reaches the schools, and when it does, it's in an entirely bureaucratic and impersonal manner. However, with The Big Zip the money would go from the folks of My Home Town to the schools of My Home Town, with everyone directly involved in helping our schoolchildren. Who could resist that?
And the logistics would be charmingly small town, if I must say so myself. I'd walk around with my stash bag; people'd give me their money (in cash no credit or debit cards, than you very much) and I'd give them a ticket if they wanted. Then when my bag was full, I'd take it to the school's fiscal office, empty it on Mike Kilroy's desk, and let him sweat the details.
As for everyone being a loser? Hey, let's face it - the chances of winning the real lottery are only slightly better than mine. Or as it was so eloquently explained by wannabe statistician, Whispering Tom Dudones, "The odds of me winning the lottery are the same as me getting struck by lightningwhile sitting in the Blue Moon."
Besides, there would be winnersof sorts. Every Friday morn I'd call The Talk of the Town and announce three winners from that week. OK, so they wouldn't get any money, but who can put a price on being lauded on our most prestigious local call-in show?
And if you're a regular lottery player and you want to consider the bottom line, in the long run my ten buck a week limit will save you a small fortune.
As I see it, The Big Zip's up-front approach will prove irresistible. No fake promises, smarmy come-ons or sleazy hustles just the unvarnished truth. And as proof, compare the state lottery's catch-phrase to ours.
Theirs is the voice of the consciously cynical - "You never know."
Ours is the voice of the pure of heart - "You always know."