I have probably been playing the lottery for 30 years. I played it in Indiana and have probably played it in every state I have ever visited or lived in, including Nevada and Florida.
When Indiana did not have Powerball, I drove across the state line to Illinois and played it there. I stood in line for an hour to play the first $40 million Powerball jackpot; and, of course, I didn't win a dime. I don't think the winner did either.
I have played scratch-offs. I have played three-number, four-number, five-number and six-number games. I have paid $20 for special lottos, too.
I've won a few bucks, $20 here and $100 there, and have even been in office pools that have won several thousand dollars. But having to divide the money among 10-20 people left each with only a few hundred dollars to speak of.
But it's all been good. I considered it a cheap retirement investment. I thought that someday, maybe someday, I might win enough to pay off some bills, buy a new house or a car and live the life of luxury. Obviously, that hasn't happened yet.
The lottery has been called the "tax for the man who can't do math;" meaning, of course, that out of the millions who play, only one actually wins at a time.
For most of us, who can't actually see millions or billions, it doesn't really matter. We play anyway, almost like Jesus is going to help us.
Trust me. I've been to Las Vegas eight or nine times. Jesus doesn't help you win when you gamble. Don't think I haven't asked.
Something strange has been bothering me lately, though, as I give my weekly tithes to the Florida Lottery. You can call me "One-Number Mike," if you want, because that is about all the numbers I ever get in the lottery, no matter which games I play. Do you feel the same way? Are your numbers usually off by one, or two numbers? Do you wonder about that?
For a long time, I have been thinking that the lottery may be rigged, so that the least amount of money can be won each night, each Wednesday, Saturday or each week, keeping the lottery "puh-bahs" greased sufficiently.
It may be true. I don't know. But what I do know bothers me.
Recently, I purchased a $10 scratch-off ticket at a local convenience store. My wife, Joyce, scratched the ticket off at home and brought it to me.
Covering half of the ticket, she said, "Look at this." I glanced and saw that every one of the 10 games on the ticket were winners, matching the game numbers in one way or another. Oh my God, we had won!
When she uncovered the winning amounts, I saw that each one of the 10 games showed that we had won only $1 for each game on the ticket. Winning all 10 games, we had won back our original $10 investment.
It was then that I began to suspect that something was wrong with the lottery. Someone was "messing with us."
I made a copy of the scratch off ticket, posted it on the wall at work and didn't have another thought about it ... until recently.
I was checking my Fantasy 5 numbers when I noticed that the winning numbers were the prime numbers "1, 3, 5, 7 and 9." I cannot remember this ever happening before in all the years I have been playing the lotto.
Can you imagine playing the first five prime numbers for years and years, and then discovering that they had finally come up, and you had finally won?
What a relief and an exhilaration that must have been, believing in the prime numbers and finally winning. "Let's go to the bank, mama!"
In real life, of course, reality usually displaces fantasy, as in this case.
The total jackpot this week for the five numbers drawn in Fantasy 5 was more than $2 million. That would have been a nice retirement package for someone, even after a 50 percent penalty for a lump sum payment and then a 25 percent Internal Revenue Service tax on the earnings. I could live with that.
The cruel part of the story is that 98 people selected the same five prime numbers (1, 3, 5, 7 and 9) and each will be receiving only $1,995.32, minus taxes, as their lotto winnings, instead of the $2 million they could have won.
I don't know about you, but I think someone at lotto headquarters is laughing his or her ass off, and I don't like it one bit.
Even though I didn't win, I think something is wrong with the lotto and it needs to be investigated on a federal and state level.
Some money from the lotto profits is supposed to be given to the Brevard County Schools, the state, the counties and the highway and street departments, but I have seen nothing that indicates they have received any money at all. These entities publish what they receive from outside sources on a regular basis.
What do you think about that?
Michael G. Hibbard
Brevard News Clerk