Winning the Lottery
WHEN times are tough....people buy lottery tickets! Even with the most recent huge jackpot of about P347 Million (a little over $7 million), long lines can still be seen in lottery outlets as the public hopes to be the next lucky person to win a big prize in the other games still playing with relatively large jackpots. Many times, people ask me if I have ever won in either the Lotto (pari-mutuel game) or the Numbers (fixed odds games) games, and I have had to answer in the negative. I am not, after all, a gambler at heart, but do wander off to a nearby lottery outlet to take my chance once in a while. Those who ask the question are the ones who somehow know of my involvement in the conceptualization of the online lottery game in the country. It began with an invitation by my uncle Norberto Quisumbing, Jr. to help him when he had just taken over PAGCOR upon the assumption of power by the Cory government. He had in mind the transformation of PAGCOR into an authority able to operate like the Nevada state gaming authority. On the other hand, he wanted to try to introduce the concept of the online lottery here, having seen how successful lottery operations were in various jurisdictions around the world. So, armed only with this informal mandate, I gathered together a small team composed of my classmate Mon Abad, Atty. Gerry Geronimo--a former colleague of mine in a bank--and one other person whose name escapes me. We drafted a revised charter for PAGCOR that somehow got lost in the Palace, and we lost the initiative of getting a law in place before the deadline for issuing Presidential Decrees. Studying the operations of different lottery organizations around the world was a more pleasant task. Suffice it to say that I visited many countries, and, in the case of the US, some half-dozen of the larger lottery operations of different states. Sadly, the climate was not suitable yet for the implementation of the online lottery and so we shelved the study. Many years later, a friend contacted me and asked if I still remembered anything about the study I had made some five to six years earlier. When I inquired, this friend mentioned that Mamita Pardo de Tavera had just taken over the PCSO and wanted to try implanting the game. Knowing her to be an honest and wonderful person, I readily agreed to dust off the study and begin the process all over again. Turns out that PCSO did not yet have the firm mandate, but that we had to go through some sort of bureaucratic shootout wherein the President would select one appropriate government corporation or agency to start the process....but not after proving that the agency could do it. Well, to make a long story short, PCSO won the shootout because we already had the core study in place. Then began the long process of drawing up bidding requirements through an appropriate RFP, designing the parameters for the game in terms of hardware, software, and other considerations that would help make the game successful. We also had to struggle through various sessions with Congress and the Senate, a process that was not easy but which we managed to survive. Unfortunately, many people mistook the online lottery as a replacement for the jueteng and masiao informal games, and we had powerful people calling up to see if they could get franchises for entire provinces. It was not easy convincing them that the typical lottery outlet was either a Mom and Pop store, or an existing business that would have a terminal as a sideline. And when I told them of the (measly, it seems) 5% commission that each outlet would get for every ticket sold, they all realized that the game was not for them. Some of the changes we effected then were to keep the entire draw process televised, requiring winners of the grand prize(s) to be brought straight to the Chairman’s office for documentation and awarding, dispensing with the previous practice of issuing winning checks made out to “Bearer,” and so forth. But few are aware of the effort backstage during the draw to ensure that it is fair and beyond reproach. A committee of scrutineers selects a suitcase from a universe of many suitcases containing the balls used in the draw. The (pingpong) balls are taken (not by hand, to minimize human contact) from the suitcase and weighed carefully. Balls outside of a given tolerance level are discarded. Practice draws are made using the balls, and if any given ball comes out too often, it is examined again to see if it is too light, for example, since this would allow it to rise higher and more easily through the hole. After each draw, the balls are again scrutinized and examined to see if they really allowed for a random draw. This process is done every draw, and the idea is to make sure that the public gets a fair game. Yes, we did encounter some opposition from Church quarters at first, but we managed to convince them that the online lottery was just another form of entertainment and did not constitute hardcore gambling. Thus, by the time we held the bidding and the award was made by the President, most opposition to the game had quietly gone away. Did we get to savor the actual setting up of the game? No, this honor went to Mamita’s successor, Manoling Morato, who ran a pretty tight ship and managed to get the game going despite the usual carping from the sidelines. For personal reasons, Mamita quit soon after the selection was made, and since I came in during her watch, decided it would be best if the torch was passed on too. There is one thing that I would have wanted very much to do, based on the experience of lottery winners both here and abroad. Some studies have shown that winners, especially in the US, do not end up happier after spending or using their windfall earnings. This is why I thought it would be wise to have a professional (person or institution) give general advice to lottery winners to protect them from themselves and from the many investment and financial traps that they could be prey to. Not to mention a horde or old and newly minted relatives queuing up for a share of the now hapless winner’s earnings.
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