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Published: Monday, 4/30/2001

Lottery a game of inches

Over the years the speculation has been that had Cleopatra's nose been just a tad longer, world history may have taken a decidedly different tack. And baseball, they say, is a game of inches. Strike or ball? Fair or foul? Home run or just a long out?

Modest measures can indeed surprise us with the magnitude of their effect, as the Ohio Lottery Commission has learned to its dismay with its new “second chance” promotion.

The commission provided envelopes to holders of losing $5 or better Super Lotto tickets bought after April 16, so that the customers could enter a second-chance drawing. Alas, when folded for mailing, the envelopes were an eighth of an inch too small for the U.S. Postal Service's machines.

Some of the machines spit the offending envelopes out. They regrettably wound up in return mail and dead-letter bins, along with the dreams of participants.

“There's always something,” as the late Gilda Radner used to say.

There are a million ways to lose in the lottery and only a few to win, people have learned. To smooth things over, the lottery people are asking the Postal Service for a chance of their own, offering to pay the extra 11-cent postage per envelope if the dead letters are forwarded to the Lottery Commission's post office.

There's no point to scolding. The commission won't make the same mistake again. But shouldn't the Postal Service be equipped to notice such a gaffe, and maybe drop a dime?

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