In Search Of Wanna-be Winners


June 16, 1991|By Elizbeth Large

Staff writer Patrick McGuire tells me I'm the person lottery officials are targeting. I've never bought a ticket. I don't know how to play, and I'm embarrassed to admit it to the clerk. Plus I have a moderate amount of disposable income -- at least more than a lot of the people who play the traditionally blue-collar games, Pick 3 and Pick 4.

"If they can hook you . . . " he says.

He brought me some figures from a study by the Heartland Institute. (For more on it, see our cover story.) It's a chart entitled "What Chance Do You Have?": Seeing a no-hitter (1 in 1,347), finding a pearl in an oyster (1 in 12,000), being dealt a royal flush in 5-card stud (1 in 649,739), having quadruplets (1 in 705,000) -- I'd rather win the lottery -- being struck by lightning (1 in 1,900,000) and winning Lotto (1 in 12,913,583).

So I asked Patrick if he ever plays, and he admitted to buying Lotto ticket once or twice a year. He's always convinced he's going to win, and gets angry when he doesn't. He isn't interested in the other games -- his theory is that you only have so much luck in life; if you're going to gamble, you might as well go for a million dollars, not waste it on a $2 win.

He points out that lottery officials are looking for a game thawould cut across all segments of society, and they're using marketing techniques like focus groups to find it. "It's very sophisticated stuff," he says. "But they're still not going to get more than a buck a year out of me."

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