Mega Lotteries vs. Old Values

by John Delach

The estimated first prize payout for Mega-Millions on October 23rd was $1.6 billion (cash payout, $913 million before taxes.) A single winning ticket for Mega-Millions was sold in South Carolina.


Power Ball payout for October 27th was $750 million (cash payout, $454.3 million before taxes.) Two winners, one down south and one in New York.


The payouts for these two lotteries are deliberately obscene. The actuaries who control the odds of hitting the grand prizes have intentionally rigged the system so that winning the prize has become harder and harder. The fewer $ 40 million winners, $60 million winners or $80 million winners allows the jackpot to climb into an atmosphere where main-stream media begins to pay attention. Tightening the odds, offering jackpot that reach nine figures produces a shout out to the population at large: “Big money, suckers.”


At $500 million, we reach a magical payout threshold it awakens the greed in our very souls, the opportunity for a potential life changing fortune, the quick fix, the ultimate gold ring or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. At this level almost every red-blooded American will begin to sign on to the dream apart from some fundamental Calvinistic sect hidden in the backwoods of Indiana, Kentucky or West Virginia.


The siren’s call commands: “You have to be in it to win it.”


Five hundred million is the tipping point. Beyond that threshold, all players, already in, stay in. “Why should I get out now? Sure, I didn’t win but neither did anyone else. Roll it over; no, hold on, instead double-down giving you two chances for each lottery instead of one.”


Each time another $100 million is added to the prize, additional holdouts sign on. Even those accolades in West Virginia surreptitiously dispatch fellow travelers to rural smoke shops so they too can join the frenzy.


Greed at this level produces strange suggestions. Experts come out of the woodwork to appear on talk-radio, and TV stations. They provide a forum to explain to us the hopeful masses what to do to prepare for this sudden wealth and how to manage it: Establish a family trust, form an LLC, form a family foundation, hire great lawyers and financial advisers.


Trusts, overseas holdings, financial consultants, CPA’s, actuaries, psychologists, body guards, intelligence and security forces, surveillance operatives, Swiss Banks and on and on…


Did I fail to mention Bitcoins?


Take away taxes and the single winner of Mega-Millions would receive a cash payout of about: $550 million, Power Ball: $210 million.


Believe it or not, there are things that even this kind of money won’t buy like a major league sports franchise, but most other things can be on your radar. If you are of sound mind and judgement, winning such obscene amounts of money should scare the shit out of you so rejoice in your so-called bad luck.


Once upon a time quick buck fever did not always prevail. There was a family owned and run restaurant in Manhattan on 54th Street between Fifth and Madison called Reidy’s. They served Irish cuisine but in the proper atmosphere of a restaurant. Tishman Speyer’s assembled all the property on Madison Avenue between 53rd and 54th and along these two streets to build a 42-floor office building that became known as 520 Madison Avenue.


The Reidy family owned the bottom two floors of the building that housed their restaurant. However, the people who owned the upper floors sold these air rights to Tishman who demolished everything above these two floors.


Maurice Reidy family patriarch and owner refused to sell forcing Tishman to build the skyscraper around his restaurant. To ensure that customers and the public knew his position he draped a sign on his building that read: “Reidy’s Restaurant will stay at this location and will remain OPEN while the men play with their erector set. Thank you.”


Tishman finally conceded and reached a compromise with Mr. Reidy. In return for vacating the old second floor room, Tishman would incorporate a larger second floor dining room into the new structure while preserving the ambiance of the main room and bar.


One night a group of us found ourselves upstairs at Reidy’s enjoying a lengthy and happy dinner filled with much laughter and cheer. Most other customers had left when Mr. Reidy decided to join us. He sat next to me and I decided to ask him: “Mr. Reidy, I’m curious about one thing. Before the Tishman people realized that there was no way that you would close this restaurant and vacate this space, they must have become desperate. How did you resist accepting the large amount of the money they must have offered you?”


He looked me in the eye, smiled and said: “Because for my family to have that much money would be sinful.”


And that was that except nothing is forever. The restaurant business is a tough business. When Maurice Reidy passed on, the family closed the restaurant not long after. An Irish curio shop replaced it but not for long. Today it is a modern restaurant, but the bare brick walls testify to its previous life. I hope the Reidy family retained ownership and now collect a handsome rent.