“We should do this for our business dope ass idea,” she said. It was a Facebook post in a group for small business owners. Someone had tweeted an idea. Others had taken a screenshot and shared, calling it genius. She had merely continued the trend. The idea was to randomly pick one person from the Facebook group each week and have everyone else Venmo that person $1 so that each week someone would be blessed with a windfall of approximately $10k. There were more than 50 comments already. All approved of the idea except one person who warned that it was a pyramid scheme. “No, it’s basically gambling (a lottery),” I wrote, “with a smaller prize pool and better odds (that are still terrible).” I was mind blown that no one seemed aware of that fact and felt obligated to illuminate the truth.
The man who had first called it a pyramid scheme responded: “If 10k enter and commit to play…and your not allowed to win twice….its possible you win 188 years later and break even.” I didn’t feel the need to double check his math since the point was valid (in my opinion) even if it would take as little as 10 years to win. I laugh-liked his comment and replied: ” Don’t forget that those who’ve already won must keep paying in for that to be true…” The original poster read our comments, agreed that those odds sounded terrible, and suggested the group size should be limited to a few hundred so the luck would roll around to everyone sooner.
I resisted the urge to point out that a few hundred dollar prize wouldn’t excite many and stated the more important thing. I wrote, “I’m pretty sure it’s not legal unless it’s for charity,” even though I was fairly certain I was right, because I didn’t want to be the only one pointing this out. The man who had pointed out it could take 188 years to break even had eventually told the original poster that the idea sounded fun and many others had left positive responses to the idea since I began shooting holes in it. Thankfully, someone else was offering similar advice at the same time. I added to her list of wise questions, “also, who is responsible for the money distribution and who checks whether or not they are being honest? What’s to stop them from saying only 9k of 10k put in their $1 though 10k actually did.” That’s when I realized the idea is actually to send the money direct to the winner; to have people pay after they know they haven’t won.
As of now, hundreds of people have left comments in support of the idea and/or asking to join such groups. They think those of us calling it illegal gambling do don’t know what we are talking about. They say we can’t understand that it’s just a fancy new type of crowdsourcing and that the winner is is simply the benefactor of a multi source donation… and that it’s 100% not taxable because it is a donation. A few people have shared links to groups offering this (apparently not that unique) opportunity. I rolled over the $10 I won on my Christmas scratchers I bought myself in honor of my Grandma Betty (who used to give us each a few tickets at the holidays) into two tickets for the Super Lotto and three for the Mega Millions… and left one more comment saying that, “Sending the money direct to the winner might create a helpful technicality for circumventing legal issues… but it opens up new issues of how to ensure that everyone who was involved in the drawing actually pays the winner.” I also left a link to an article about how to set up a legal raffle. I don’t think most of them noticed the girl who said she had already lost $1500 being part of this type of opportunity.
I can’t help but wonder what this crowd would say to the suggestion that they auto transfer $2 per week into a savings account to watch it compile and accrue interest with zero plans for withdrawals before retirement. (I do that.) Are these the same people who think insurance is a scam though the risks covered are clearly outlined in the contract? Do they believe they don’t personally benefit from taxes paid despite the streets and open spaces maintained on our behalf and the thousands employed to protect us (amongst other things)? I for one am amazed by the number of people who would rather believe a Facebook group could make all of them rich if it was done right.
I like to believe I might win one of the $650+ million jackpots this weekend, especially because my favorite convenience store cashier said, “Good luck to us!” as she slid over my tickets, showing she knew my choice to buy there would matter if I won… but I know it would take a miracle. Most days I try not to waste money on frivolities and ensure the things I purchase offer a good value in return. When playing poker I take comfort in the fact that skills matter far more than luck and that I wouldn’t be there gambling on myself unless I could afford to lose and thought my skills would bring riches. When I play the lottery, I feel I am buying hope – a chance to dream of a different life. I don’t think life would be inherently easier if I won. Like Bill Gates once said, “With great wealth comes great responsibility.” Despite the year Gates had in 2020, I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to spend more time researching great charities to donate money to… and be able to afford to donate my time to support their causes as well… and be able to travel more often and bring my cat (once COVID is done)… and to bet boldly on the felt when I want to teach a misogynist man a lesson… all while continuing to to write and create lovely things.
Tonight and tomorrow I get to dream of making that life happen thanks to the lottery. I think that is worth $10… but never would I ever join a Facebook group where I had the opportunity to receive up to $10k for $1 per week. I don’t think those who won would continue to pay the winner if they couldn’t win again… or that everyone who was part of the drawing would send money to the winner knowing they lost… and that no one would create a second or third account to gain multiple entries… and and and… You hear me. I don’t think it would be fair and I don’t think the odds of winning are good. What say you? Are you playing the lottery this weekend? Would you join a Facebook group offering the opportunity to receive $10k? Do you think such “opportunities” are a thinly disguised illegal lottery? Sadly, I’m not offering pennies per thought, but I do greatly appreciate all thoughts shared.