Although I concur that the State shouldn’t be in the gaming business, I think the rest of Tony’s analysis is wrong.
If I could excerpt just one bit to give you the full idea of David’s rebuttal, I would. But really, excerpting the whole thing hardly qualifies as fair use, even among friends. Go read his response. I’ll wait.
Ok, done? Good.
I think the devil is in the assumptions. David assumes that players play only for the top prize. (And that there is only one prize, but he uses that assumption for a different reason.) I assumed that they play to win, preferably – but not exclusively – the big prize. One of us is right, since those seem to be the two reasonable possibilities. I wasn’t convinced when I wrote my entry that it was me, and I’m not convinced it’s me after reading his response.
Still, the question of fairness rests solely on how the game is marketed, I think. If, as I barely-sorta implied, the State is running commercials or promoting the game after the top prize is awarded, that’s shady at best. If not, I don’t think this is a problem in the context of the game. Should selling tickets be automatically considered marketing with an intent to imply the top prize is still available? Again, one’s assumption is critical here. I tend towards mine because, as my original anecdote suggests, I know many people who habitually return their winnings to the state for more tickets. It speaks to an acceptance that winning something has value. It could also mean just an expectation that turning the winnings into more tickets might mean the jackpot. That’s probably the reason. That, and addiction.
But I still come back to the contract. There has to be some expectation that the customer will read the fine print if it matters to him. Also, as I closed my original entry, the available prizes are listed on the lottery website for each game. I don’t know how quickly this is updated after prizes are redeemed, but the availability of the information matters. How much, I’m not sure, but disclosing this information suggests that gamblers can make a determination. Maybe real-time game information available at each point-of-sale would be better?
Also for consideration, this at Hit & Run, which calls the same defense I offered “weak”, but without the effort to explain why that David offered.