Home / View Point / Earl Best / Is the Lotto part of Scam-lamafia? Best looks at $30m jackpot

Is the Lotto part of Scam-lamafia? Best looks at $30m jackpot

The Lotto, an economics teacher friend of mine has long insisted to me, is nothing but “a regressive tax on black people.”

Photo: "Lottery ticket."
Photo: “Lottery ticket.”

That’s probably also true of Play Whe, Pick Two, Pick Four and Scratch and, indeed, the National Lotteries Control Board’s whole range of online games. And not being a church man himself, my friend adds that it’s the only tax he knows of which Trinidadians voluntarily pay!

I have never found the cojones to tell him about my tithes.

Anyway, as regards the first statement, I have long suspected that he was right all along but the hard evidence came to me only last week Wednesday when the jackpot was $25m.

Seduced by the lure of unfilthy lucre, I accepted an invitation from my sousou organizer to join a syndicate. I ended up in Central Trinidad, looking for Lotto luck.

Incredibly, the queue looked like something I’m used to seeing at football—and now, since Brian Lara’s retirement, cricket—matches. On a Wednesday. In mid-morning. Which, come to think of it, is unsurprising. Twenty-five million dollars is a lot of money which can go a long way.

And since the ordinary citizen seems to have the impression that the vast majority of the money won so far in the Lotto has ended up south of the Caroni Bridge, said ordinary citizen is prepared to go a long way to Penal and Siparia and Princes Town in search of it.

Photo: A lottery ticket line. Can you spot the winner? (Copyright Controlyourcash.com)
Photo: A lottery ticket line. Can you spot the winner?
(Copyright Controlyourcash.com)

So that’s largely why Citizen Best ended up in Freeport in mid-week. And I joined the loooooooooooooooooooooong queue. Which, for those who know me, is hard, very hard to believe.

But that gave me pause. When I go to the bank and I see ten people in the line, that’s it! ATM time. Or I go back on the morrow.

So why did I line up behind 40-plus people? Because 25,000,000 tax-free dollars is a lot of money, that’s why!

And if Westmoorings and Haleland Park can turn up their noses at such piddling sums, Enterprise and Endeavour and environs literally cannot afford to do the same.

And Arima and environs where I live can’t afford it either.

Interestingly, the 50 Quick Picks bought in Central yielded not so much as a three-number combination. And the 150 bought elsewhere yielded a solitary free Quick Pick.

But further confirmation came a day later when the jackpot moved overnight from an estimated $25m—the NLCB web site shows that the actual figure was $24, 379,523.31—to an estimated $30m.

Photo: My money. Ha ha. (Courtesy Brewster's Millions)
Photo: My money. Ha ha.
(Courtesy Brewster’s Millions)

How much of that “estimated” $5m do you think came from the corporate sector? Or from the Abouds, the Chin Lees, the Sabgas or the Stollmeyers?

And what are the real chances, you think, that a lot of it will end up in Morvant, Moruga or Moriah?

Also, what would be the country’s reaction if, with a Keith Rowley Government in power, we had all woken up to the Sunday news that the Saturday night’s $30m draw had been won by a ticket bought and sold in Mason Hall?

The current $30m jackpot began as $2m in mid-August and grew to just over $3m by the middle of the election week. In the two months since, it is $27m richer.

Writing in today’s Sunday Express, UWI lecturer Noel Kalicharan raises concerns about the way “the NLCB “rigged” the system in its favour every time they tweaked it.” And their lack of forthrightness was already not sitting well with ordinary T&T.

In Friday’s Express, Sue-Ann Wayow questions Winston Siriram about why no one is winning the Lotto. Not unexpectedly, the NLCB Chairman gives the assurance that all is above board.

But Wayow never asked the crucial question of whether things are above Board.

Photo: Are you questioning our integrity, Sire? (Courtesy Game of Thrones)
Photo: Are you questioning our integrity, Sire?
(Courtesy Game of Thrones)

Shouldn’t she have asked whether, even though the NLCB can’t rig the Lotto results, they are riggable? I would also have liked to know whether Government makes any investment in the NLCB and, if yes, what returns the Government gets therefrom?

Siriram was at pains to explain that the difference between actual receipts and estimated prize money goes to “our administrative costs, commission for agents, etc.” I would have been rather more curious about that “etc” than was Ms Wayow.

Small wonder then that Kathleen Pinder, a letter writer in the same paper, remains unconvinced. Not “confident of its fairness,” she wants the public “re-invited to view and participate in live drawings (…) to ensure transparency.”

“We are acutely aware,” she writes, “that for some years now the frequency, the jackpot sizes, the locations of winning ticket purchases and numbers of jackpot winners changed to the detriment of the vast majority of the population.”

My sense is that Ms Pinder feels that the Lotto which started in July 1994, may not have escaped the contagion of the 2010-2015 regime whose Sadim—spell it backwards!—hands corrupted almost everything they touched.

Photo: Former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan. (Courtesy HeritageRadioTT)
Photo: Former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.
(Courtesy HeritageRadioTT)

Yet, she doesn’t go so far as to call for it to be stopped. Maybe she would have had she had the albeit anecdotal evidence that I have.

The NLCB has said that it is impossible for the same machine to generate the same Quick Pick combination more than once for any one draw. But I know a man who knows a man who has—or claims to have—convincing evidence that it is NOT at all impossible.

So what would happen if the Government of Trinidad and Tobago were to decree tomorrow that the Lotto is to be discontinued?

One can’t be sure but, unsure where their next meal is coming from and unable to delude themselves at least temporarily that salvation may be found in the Lotto/PlayWhe booth, many people are not unlikely to explore other get-rich-quick options, not all of them socially acceptable.

For one thing, crime would go up, am I right, Akins Vidale?

Photo: Finders, keepers. (Courtesy Home Alone)
Photo: Finders, keepers.
(Courtesy Home Alone)

If Carnival is an annual escape valve, Lotto and Play Whe are its daily equivalent. So without them, insanity would increase as would, as a corollary, domestic abuse.

Moving in the opposite direction would, of course, be employment and, less obviously, absenteeism. Since the mid-morning draw was introduced, a lot of local employers now have to allot a lot of Lotto time-off to a lot of people.

And what would happen to poverty?

I’m sure, as we Trinis like to say, it might go down. All those five and ten dollars which now get “invested” in NLCB products might well find their way into more potentially lucrative areas such as hard drugs. And with the new government pushing the local government theme, maybe all those whe whe turfs that the NLCB put out of business would get a new lease on life.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. There’s a good reason why poor black people aren’t allowed to win the Lotto often; it’s bad for us all.

The first Lotto millionaire, an ordinary citizen in the Borough of Arima, was flat broke three years later. And this was back in the day when a million dollars was, well, still worth a million dollars.

Photo: I said I won "pottery" not "lottery"...
Photo: I said I won “pottery” not “lottery”…

The probably apocryphal story goes that, asked what he had done with the money, he replied that he had spent one quarter of it on women, one quarter on drinking with his friends and one quarter partying and feteing down the place.

“And the last quarter?” the interviewer enquired.

“Ah think,” came the unexpected answer, “ah mighta waste dat.”

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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  1. I always believe that the big jackpots are going str8 back to govt, that’s y I Doh play any lotto over 5 mil! #justmyview

  2. This is a fact! The money is going straight to the government’s coffers…

  3. I for one tired fattening the government pocket. I play one or 2 quick picks because if you don’t have a ticket, you don’t have a chance. But the bigger jackpot does not mean I will throw away more money. .even though it’s tempting. I done know one person will win. Happens almost every Christmas.

  4. Polar beer is $5 in any bar now. Buy that and cool yah head instead of wasting that same $5 on something you will never win!

  5. No one should be winning every week.

    And it raises flags every Christmas time. The months leading up no one wins but just in time for the holiday or new years.

    • While I will not dismiss the possibility of patterns with regard to lotto winnings and winners I would really appreciate it if anyone who has “noticed” that the lotto is always big around Christmas or that most of the winners are from south, would provide some reliable statistical data to back up these claims. The lotto has been in existence for about 21years. How many times has the lotto been larger at Christmas than at other times of the year. How many jackpots have been won in south compared to the rest of the country. If anyone can kindly provide these figures and then he figures back up what various people have been suggesting then I will gladly become a beliver but barring that I will for the most part dismiss these claims as conspiracy theories with no merit

      • Lance, at nlcb.com, you can find every lotto draw from 1994 to now so the info about the Christmas pattern is easily accessible and the theory easily verifiable.
        I tried to find reliable info on the outlets selling the winning tickets but I was unable so to do in the short time between conception and production of the piece. I am really intrigued by the perception that Tobago has only sold winning tickets “a few times” so, if the jackpot is not won soon, it’s a fairly safe bet that I will be able to unearth the relevant info for you.

    • I think the part of winning in South is just anecdotal.

      The large Christmas winnings however been more frequent for the past 3 years.

  6. Someone asking for nlcb to be investigated…. Oh boy!

  7. I wish he had sent me the winning numbers tho lol

  8. It always amazed me that every time it rolled 3 times it was immediately won.

  9. I haven’t seen any soild evidence beyond conspiracy theories that the lotto is rigged. The chances of winning the lotto are 1in 3,246,320 . Sometimes some one will win every week sometimes no one will win for months. Thats the nature of these things. Its random.

    • Actually Lance I always said that I found the Lotto seemed to have been won too easily, and personally think that this current jackpot reflects the true odds of winning.

      Regardless of theories, I’d really love to see audited NLCB accounts, considering that at least 30% of these CASH ONLY sales are supposed to go towards sport funding etc…

    • I can say for a fact the balls themselves aren’t rigged in any way. But i understand that the public can view the draws live if they choose. Not sure if that option is still available.

    • Even randomness have a pattern over time. In this case, however, why is the jackpot so large mostly around Christmas time?

  10. Yet, like a moth to the proverbial flame, even the casual punter has transformed into a small-time venture capitalist with the lure of $30m in the offing!

  11. It is scientifically impossible that every big jackpot (over 5 mil) is won by a single person. Someone needs to properly investigate NLCB for fraud and/or corruption.

  12. I think if one looks at the history of Lotto. The jackpot is invariably fairly large around Christmas time. I know of at least one employee who resigned because of unethical practices (don’t know whether it had to do with it being rigged)

  13. I can always think of more entertaining ways to lose my money than the Lotto. Lol.

  14. I too think it’s a scam. I do not trust NLCB

  15. One must believe.Unless I have that winning ticket in my hands I am entitled to give credence to issues of malfeasance.I am prepared to light torches and wave pitchforks and pursue them to their lair.

  16. Sean Powder

    The lottery is certainly a regressive tax on the poor specifically because the poor often spend a higher percentage of their (low)income on the lottery than their wealthy higher income fellow citizens. The lottery sells a dream with defined odds, vastly different that religious tithing or donations which the odds are unknown but much more imposing.

    A possible reason that the lottery has grown to $30M is that the NCLB has changed the game since its inception. The current rendition is a Powerball styled game where you first select 5 numbers from 1 to 35; then select from a separate pool 1 number from 1 to 10 as your Powerball number. This results in some staggering odds in the range of:
    5 Main Numbers + Powerball (Jackpot) 1 in 3,246,320
    5 Main Numbers 1 in 360,702
    4 Main Numbers + Powerball 1 in 21,642
    4 Main Numbers 1 in 2,405
    3 Main Numbers + Powerball 1 in 746
    3 Main Numbers 1 in 83

    In our small twin island republic of 1.5 million people, if we assume that 500,000 people play its not surprising that the jackpot grows; even if everyone plays 10 tickets. Remember, people are playing favorite numbers; wife, deputy, mother, and children birthday which are all between 1 to 31. They are not systematically playing all possible combinations to increase their odds of winning.

    So as to not take time from everyone watching the all African U17 WC Final between Nigeria and Mali, I will say that the integrity of the game has not been violated. However, the Lotto as designed is getting the desired result of producing tremendous profits for the government of Trinidad and Tobago. I hope that the money is being directed accordingly to the appropriate funds. The National Lotteries Act Chapter 21:04 Articles 23, states:

    23. At the end of each financial year there shall be paid into
    the Consolidated Fund, after allowing for all expenses and the
    amount reserved for prizes, the balance standing to the credit of
    the National Lotteries Account.
    23A. Notwithstanding anything contained in section 21 or
    section 23 the instant lottery surplus shall be paid into the Sport
    and Culture Fund established by section 3 of the Sport and
    Culture Fund Act.

    All in all, I say its a better bet than tithing.

    • I see where you’re coming from, Sean, and I really appreciate the odds and ends) you’re added to the discussion. I, however, am unable to agree with your conclusion. Does not the Good Book urge not to “gather up treasures on the earth”? My tithes, I think, I HOPE, are buying me a place in my Father’s house.
      That, at any rate, was what my pastor said when I told him I was planning to use some of my tithes money to “invest” in the Lotto. He softened his position when I said that I would give 10% to the church if I won the jackpot.

      • CORRECTION: odds (and ends) you’ve added to the discussion. (where is the spell check when you need it?)

        • Sean Powder

          Earl, which good book are you referencing? Think and Grow Rich? or The Millionaire Next Door? I have been so busy gathering my earthly riches to fix my grandfather house that I don’t read much about my ‘Father’s” house. I don’t have a pastor, pimp nor politician so no 10% for me.

  17. In a land where there are preachers, pastors , priests, imams, pandits, pundits, and other purveyors of salvation galore, why single out the lottery ? Imagine how people’s conversations might be dulled if they couldn’t ask each other : ” What you dream last night? Deadman?? Chinaman?” before they played their play whe mark.
    Suppose people stop minding numbers, what would they mind?
    We are a very superstitious species us human beings and we also are very hopeful. Who cares that the odds of winning a lottery of a play whe or any gamble is not in favour of the bettor? You never know the dream is alive and you could be the winner.
    We are all looking for some sort of salvation, dream like or otherwise. That is why conmen do so well. That is why pastors do so well. That is why politicians do so well.
    We like it so!!
    many thanks