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County Residents' Luck In Lottery Unusually Bad

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County Residents Luck in the Lottery Unusually Bad

By Glen Harris

Quick, stop the lottery!

Something apparently has gone amiss because Washtenaw County isn't getting its fair share of winners.

After the sixth millionaire drawing last month, the Michigan Lottery Commission proudly bragged that one out of every 10 people in the state had been a winner. But that's not so in Washtenaw.

The bureau also reports that through the sixth millionaire drawing 13,486 county residents have purchased winning numbers. Considering Washtenaw's population is around a quarter of a million people, that means only about one out of 20 people here have won.

Not everyone will complain, though. Especially the four people who have won $50,000 prizes. Or the seven $10,000 winners, or the 17 winners of $1,000. And the 13,458 folks who have cashed in $25 tickets probably consider themselves to still be ahead of the game.

These chosen few have won $623,450 in the lottery, the commission reports.

But the complaints will come from the untold thousands of local Losers. The bureau has no current figures on how many lottery tickets have been sold in Washtenaw, but through the first six months of the gambling it was revealed local chance-takers were buying more than 80,000 tickets weekly.

If this sales rate has been maintained (and a spot survey of local sellers indicates sales have been steady), that means Washtenaw County people bought more than 3,200,000 lottery tickets through the sixth millionaire drawing.

The 13,486 winning tickets represent about .0004 of a per cent of the tickets sold. That's four winning tickets among every 10,000 sold.

Again assuming the 80,000 sales a week have continued, simple arithmetic shows county residents have paid out just under $2 million to date for the "chance of a lifetime.”

Had this money gone instead for Washtenaw County government, it would have paid for a full year’s operation of the four Circuit Courts, the three District Courts, the Friend of the Court, Public Defender’s Office, Probate Court and Probation Department,.

It would also have allowed a doubling of the Sheriff's Department force, or could have paid for all of the county's welfare, education and recreational programs.

But county officials can only dream of what they would do if they had the money, while state officials can spend it. The state requires that 45 per cent of the revenues collected by the lottery be given back in the form of prizes. The rest, an estimated $60 million at the end of the lottery's first year, goes into the state's bank account.

For the discouraged millions who have paid out 50 cents or more weekly and got nothing in return, there is still hope. The payoffs are being increased during November so the Lottery Commission can get rid or about $600,000 in surplus Bionics. Details remain to be announced.

 And with experience the commission is also gaining sophistication. Plans are being developed for a $1 lottery which would pay a minimum of $100, and use of vending machines to sell tickets will also be experimented with.

Unannounced plans for furthering the rewards to ticket dealers are also being considered. This will be happily greeted by many of the dealers, a survey of local ticket agents shows.

Tom Davis, owner of the Main Party Store, says handling the lottery tickets is a "pain." He said the tickets are an "added nuisance" which he puts up with only to please his customers. Agents receive two and a half cents for each ticket they sell, but Davis said it's still a losing proposition.

Bruce Buster, manager of Buster's Food Mart, says his store sells about 900 tickets a week but he still considers it a customer service. The Paperwork involved eliminates any profits from the sales, he said.

Buster also confirmed a finding by Davis that many people are "shopping around" for tickets. Davis said while he has many steady ticket customers, many travel from agent to agent speculating that the more tickets bought from different agents increases the chances of winning.

"Some people seem to really be turning into compulsive gamblers." Davis said.

Buster also reported some people have become discouraged from buying tickets because they say most of the winners seem to be coming from the Detroit area. Studies last summer showed 65 pet cent of the winners came from the Detroit area.