Editor's Note: The following opinion article is not necessarily the opinion of Lottery Post, but is presented to illustrate how the latest Texas Lottery gaffe has fueled the fires of long-time critics of the Texas Lottery Commission (TLC). The article is written by Ken Rodriguez of the San Antonio Express-News.
Ken Rodriguez: How Texas lottery advertised make-believe payoff for suckers
The sleight-of-hand Texas Lottery Commission has done it again. On Wednesday, the commission turned the Texas Lotto into an illusion, advertising an $8 million jackpot that didn't exist.
Now you see it.
Now you don't.
Thanks for playing, sucker.
This was no accident. This was deception.
Five days before Wednesday's drawing, commission officials learned there wasn't enough money to fund the $8 million jackpot.
Slumping ticket sales and lagging interest rates had created the shortfall, the TLC said.
So did the commission alert the public?
Did the commission adjust the advertised jackpot amount?
Did the commission come clean and say, "We've got a problem"?
The commission decided to do nothing. Or, to be more precise, the commission decided to keep taking your money for a game it couldn't fully fund.
If you had drawn the winning ticket, you would have collected roughly $1.3 million less than the advertised amount.
Fortunately for the TLC, no one claimed the jackpot. Imagine: The winner could have gone on TV to say, "I got cheated out of a million bucks."
Instead, when the story broke, commissioners said, gosh, we sure are sorry. And, gee, we've never had a shortfall this big before. And, please, do not lose confidence in the lottery.
And, oh, by the way, we're not rolling up the jackpot an extra million for Saturday's drawing. We're freezing it at $8 million. So, yippee, go out and buy more tickets!
Missing from this faux apology was a real explanation. The commission never said why it failed to reveal the shortfall before Wednesday's drawing.
Commission spokesman Bobby Heith said he didn't have an answer. He could only speculate.
And this was his best guess: "We were in uncharted waters and hoping sales would climb."
Hoping sales would climb?
Heith says Texas Lotto ticket sales are down 26 percent from the same time last year.
This latest lottery fiasco should not surprise.
The commission plays the public like a trick card dealer. What you see is not what you get.
With one hand, the commission offers an easy game. With the other hand, it takes your money.
Take scratch-offs. As of June 4, the top cash prizes had been claimed in 11 of the 76 scratch-off games offered. Even so, the TLC continues selling tickets for those 11 games, and people continue buying.
One game, Big Money Bonus Spectacular, promises a top prize of $1 million. That prize has been claimed, but tickets are still offered at 20 bucks a pop.
TLC could stand for Tricks, Lies and Cons. Consider some history.
For years, the commission has said the lottery does not hit the poor and uneducated harder than others.
Not true. A recent study by Texas Tech showed that Texans who earn the least spend more per player on the lottery than those in the highest income groups. The study also showed that high school dropouts spend more than three times as much as those with college degrees.
On three occasions, students in the statistics class of San Antonio College professor Gerald Busald have exposed erroneous lottery claims, forcing the commission to make corrections.
In 2002, a reporter called then-TLC director Linda Cloud to ask about commissioner Walter Criner, who had resigned following an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint. Cloud said she knew nothing about the Criner investigation.
But she did, and when her lie and participation in a cover-up was exposed, she resigned.
If the TLC isn't honest about its own commissioners, why should it be honest about its games?
Truth in advertising seems foreign to the commission. If a lottery watchdog had not filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General's Office last week, it's likely no one would know about the $1.3 million shortfall in the Texas Lotto jackpot.
Meanwhile, commissioners want you to believe the lottery is an honest game.
Even after Wednesday's drawing for a make-believe prize.