I’m not much of a gambler. The handful of times I’ve been in a casino, it’s ten bucks worth of quarters in the slots and out. The few times I’ve gone to the track, it’s two-dollar bets based on the name of the horse or the color of the jockey’s silks. When I throw in with the NCAA basketball ladder at the gym, I do my pairwise picks based on whatever comes into my head: city preference, mascot. And for old time’s sake, I tend to bet on the Catholic schools. (Not such a bad strategy, given Georgetown, Villanova, and a couple of others.)
I play for the entertainment, with absolutely no expectation of winning.
The last place I figure I’ll ever end up is at a Gamblers’ Anonymous meeting.
But there is the lottery, which – despite my eyes-open understanding of the odds – I do play with semi-regularity.
As with other forms of gambling, I don’t really expect to win. (I do get the odds.) But I like the period between dollar purchase of a Power Ball quick pick, and the moment – typically a month or so later – when I bother to look up the winning number and realize that I don’t hold it. During that period, I get to play a mental game of Lady Bountiful, imagining just what I’d do with the loot if I did win. (Forget for a second that every hard luck story in the world would be standing on my doorstep, hat in hand. I was talking to the guy I usually buy my lottery tickets from, and he told me that a friend of his won a relatively modest amount – maybe a million or so – and he was overwhelmed with requests (mostly from complete strangers) for “help.” What must it be like to win the Big One?)
But like dropping those ten bucks worth of quarters on the slots, playing the lottery is entertainment.
For some folks, however, it’s apparently a way to make a living.
One such person is Clarance Jones:
Over the past decade, the 73-year-old from Lynn has redeemed more than 10,000 tickets from the state lottery - more than any other person - worth a total of more than $18 million. (Source: Boston.com)
Hmmmm. I estimate that over the same period, I’ve had a lottery take that’s closer to $18 – if that.
I must be doing something wrong.
And that something, apparently, is that I don’t approach gambling as a professional would.
The case of Clarance Jones has come to light because the state was going after him for taxes on his lottery winnings. They suspect that Jones is what is known a “10 per center” – i.e., someone who will cash in the lottery winnings of others so that they can avoid paying alimony, child support and other debts. The “10 per center” skims his portion off of the top.
By the way:
It is not illegal to cash in someone else’s winning ticket, but it is illegal to do so to help them evade taxes or other legal obligations.
I guess that this is a business like those ones I’ve seen advertised that offer to pay someone for the future proceeds of an insurance settlement that they haven’t yet received. (It’s YOUR money….)
In any case, the state was not able to prove that Jones is a tax-evading 10 per center, and, in fact, couldn’t prove that Jones was anything other than what he said he was, a professional gambler whose losses conveniently offset his wins, eliminating any tax liability on his part. The state failed, the court rules, to make the case they might have been able to make if they’d been willing to slog through the storage facility full of receipts, enumerating his losses, that Jones has kept. The state doesn’t believe those losses will add up, but hasn’t opened the cartons of losing scratch tickets etc. – some two hundred boxes - to prove their case.
Odds are that the state is right. Probabilistically speaking, Jones would have had to spend millions upon millions to end up with the $2.2 million worth of prizes he claimed last year. Baby needs a new pair of shoes, indeed.
For his part, Jones has claimed to spend between 60 to 80 hours betting each week. (Yikes!) And his lawyer suggests that Jones has a “formula”:
…including buying scratch tickets in the middle of a pack and visiting stores where patrons recently racked up wins, on the hunch that those outlets likely had other winning tickets to sell.
Formula? I’d like to see the proof behind this bit of “wisdom.” Sounds kind of lucky sock-ish to me.
Jones lives modestly, not large, in a small apartment in Lynn, which, while it does have some nice sections, is hardly the Gold Coast. Apparently, whether you’re a professional gambler, a 10 per center, or an out and out huckster, there may be better ways to make a living.