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Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 8/17/2004

Who won the jackpot?

HUMAN curiosity being what it is, people are always interested in reading about big lottery winners, even if a $23 million jackpot eventually turns out to be worth only $8 million.

The question is whether lottery winners should have a right to conceal their identity by creating a trust, as four recent winners have, to shield them from public notice. Maybe it will never rise to the status of a legal issue, but given the nature of this pernicious government enterprise state-sponsored gambling it is a fair question. After all, does anyone fully trust the operators of any gambling operation, whether it is one of the big casinos in Las Vegas or a small-stakes operation at a local charity?

As long as there has been a state lottery, people have pondered the possibility of wrongdoing. Accordingly, any government activity involving the disbursement of money should be as transparent as possible.

True, the winners of a big gambling pot face all kinds of problems deadbeat relatives, importuning investment counselors and lawyers, pleas for charitable gifts, and the possibility that ties of kinship and friendship will be severed by such drastic changes in fortune.

But on balance, the temporary, if unwelcome, publicity of a big jackpot is outweighed by the fact that a huge sum of money will drastically improve one s economic fortunes. If publicity bothers a winner, why not book a cruise around the world and forestall unwelcome attention, or simply communicate only through legal and financial advisers?

How to cope with even a relatively modest $8 million jackpot is a problem a lot of people wouldn t mind having.

That s why we still believe lotteries would do less harm if they gave smaller jackpots to a lot more people.

But the state lottery is pitched as a dream machine, despite the incredibly long odds. Players buy tickets because they like to dream about what they would do with the winnings. When we invariably lose, we indulge in a bit of envy and some good old-fashioned fantasy about how much better use we would make of the money if fate had allotted such a problem to us.

For us, the matter is simple: Go public or go without the jackpot. It s a matter of keeping government-run gambling operations clean.

At least, that s how we feel about it until our ship comes in.



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