It’s a game of chance, for sure. But going back almost as long as mankind has attached a value to certain commodities, chance has been part of the equation. Perhaps the earliest game of chance was dice. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians and Hindus all have histories of ‘throwing the bones,’ and betting that something good was just around the corner. Even then, the thinking went, ‘if you don’t play, you don’t win.’
While dice still get tossed---usually, but not always, at casinos---people are still ‘betting on the come,’ that is, hoping that a small wager will metamorphize into something bigger. Much bigger. That’s why state lotteries, now played in all but four states, are so popular, said Colorado Lottery’s Kelly Tabor. Utah, Colorado’s neighbor to the west, is one of the state’s without a lottery.
Interestingly and, perhaps not so coincidentally, said Tabor, there is a lot of Utah traffic in stores on the far western slope where lottery sales are brisk when jackpots begin to climb.
“We have 28 different games,” said Tabor. The games, all with different names and prizes, range from simple state lotto to a myriad of scratch ticket games. Each has its own odds, and all have their own unique cachet. You can match three numbers on a Colorado Lotto ticket and win three dollars or, if you defy the longest odds, win hundreds of millions. That would be holding the lucky ticket on Power Ball or Mega Millions, both multi-state lottery games.
One thing Colorado’s lottery makes certain, said Tabor, is to try and keep things fresh and interesting. “We listen to our players,” she said. “If a game’s not working, we’ll move on to something else.” The change in Lotto is testament. But she promises that odds of winning (Lotto) “get a lot better.”
Since 1983, when Colorado joined a growing number of states offering weekly lottery options, “we’ve had 438 jackpot winners,” said Tabor. Those winners were Lotto players. Lotto is Colorado’s best known game. The biggest winner cashed in a $27-million ticket in 1992. A handful of others have walked away with double-digit jackpots.
Money raised from Colorado’s 36-year-old lottery has generated nearly $3.5 billion dollars. After payouts and other expenses, the state directs the money to Great Outdoors Colorado, the state agency dedicated to the preservation, protection and enhancement of the state’s wildlife, parks, rivers, trails and open spaces. Voters made the decision to give the money to GOCO in 1992.
Colorado’s lottery options are continually changing, said Tabor. Anyone buying tickets for this week’s Lotto will notice that what cost a dollar last week has now doubled. “We’ve had out classic Lotto game for 30 years,” she said. The new Lotto game will be called Lotto Plus.
The decision to change the classic Lotto game was made in Pueblo, where the state’s lottery office is headquartered. The Pueblo office has the bulk of the state’s lottery employees. Tabor said approximately 60 workers are headquartered there. Colorado Lottery Director, Tom Seaver and marketing and sales personnel are in Denver along with the Department of Revenue, which oversees all lottery operations.
While it might be redundant for big Lotto winners, for others, those hoping to win a future lottery grand prize, Tabor reassured that personal identities are confidential. “Colorado only requires a first name and last initial. “We’re not putting people’s privacy at risk or appear to be hiding anything.” She added that winners need not pose for pictures and “there is no news release” that might give away identities.
A long-standing argument against lotteries is that they are ‘nothing more than preying on the poor, those who can least afford them.’ But Tabor argues that is not the case. “We do a ton of research. We look at player’s ages, education, levels of income; every single demographic of who plays the lottery.” In Colorado, “the bulk of our players are more educated and have higher incomes than any other state.” Tabor stressed that Colorado is not aiming for any specific demographic. “We just try to make it fun.”
Despite the lure of winning a major prize, Tabor said all 117 lottery employees are prohibited from playing any lottery games. Also, for those others who might be playing lottery at the expense of spending their money on essentials and have acknowledged a gambling problem, “we do pay for the Problem Gambling Hotline.” That number is 800.522.4700.