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What you need to know for 01/19/2017

A modest proposal for a more modest Lottery payout

A modest proposal for a more modest Lottery payout

I’m putting it in an open letter to the Lotto Estate on how to boost the grand old lady's business.

A couple of weeks ago, we learned that Lotto, grand old lady of the New York lottery business, is in trouble. Her take this year is around $44 million, a third of what it was only eight years ago.

Not to worry. Overall, the lottery business is golden. Scratch-off games and Powerball are raking in the chips. What’s their secret? Two simple phrases: bigger jackpots and faster action.

Lotto, on the other hand. Well... a legal policy professor from Illinois, trotted out as a lottery expert, said, “...smaller pots are less attractive and slower forms of gambling are less attractive.” And a spokesman for the lottery said, “... they continue to evaluate games and marketing to increase sales.”

“Less attractive,” one guy says. “They continue to evaluate,” another one says. Not exactly kisses of death, but if Lotto was your great aunt, this is when you’d start calling out-of-town family members.

Don’t write the old girl off just yet. I have a plan.

I’m putting it in an open letter to the Lotto Estate.

Try this on for size

Dear Estate:

You’re in trouble, Old Girl. And let me begin by telling you what not to do about it. Do not continue as you are, hoping for a magic spell, or massive changes in buyer tastes, or a reformulation of statistical analyses. None of those is a high-probability outcome.

There is one change you can make, however. Attack a different market. Stop trying to bring customers to where you are. Instead, you go to where customers are.

Who are your customers, and where are they? Take a deep breath before you go on. Maybe get a cup of coffee.

Ready? Here we go.

Your present strategy is to attract either (or both) of two kinds of people, two kinds of gamblers. Either they want huge payouts, or they want instant gratification.

But we’ve already established that those folks prefer other products.

The secret, then, is to hit a different crowd.

Who might that be?

That would be someone who does not want to stand in line at Stewart’s to scratch paint off a piece of cardboard to see if he’s won $7. And it would be someone who understands the odds against winning $273 million.

It would be someone who could be sold on long but not infinite odds, and a chance of winning enough to buy a new car or to pay off the mortgage.

Nothing too grand

It might be me, for instance. For me, a million dollars seems too much. Way too much. I try to imagine myself, wondering which percentages to dole out to dozens of family members I talk to regularly, along with hundreds more I’ve never heard of who would show up at my door, cap in hand.

Spend it all on myself? I don’t think so. The world — as much of the world as I see in the media — is awash in people spending millions on themselves. It’s not a pretty picture. I’d rather not become part of it.

I can’t be the only one left who’d wait a couple days for a chance to win a modest amount. Say, $80,000. Not enough for a mansion on the Riviera or a castle in Spain, but enough to pay off the mortgage on a house in Scotia. Buy a new car and spend two weeks in Dublin, with a few bucks left over.

So offer a lesser yet still interesting sum. Eighty thousand dollars sounds practical. Do-able. And here’s where the magic comes in — at no extra cost.

Use the same payout total, a million dollars, but spread it out over a dozen people, giving 12 people each $83,000 and change. Same payout, but a dozen times as many satisfied customers.

Or, if that scale seems too modest — all right, too cheap — go with the lucky number. Seven. Seven people each win $140,000 and change. Seven times as many happy winners, seven times as many human-interest feature stories in the press, seven times as many mortgages paid off, seven times as many back taxes and child support and bad credit ratings cleared up. It’s more than a game, it’s a social improvement program.

See, the people who want a kajillion dollars to complicate their lives, they already have those other big-buck, big-bang products you sell. Those of us with smaller goals — all right, maybe it’s smaller imaginations — could use a small-bang product of our own.

Think about it.

Phil Sheehan lives in Scotia. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.

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