Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Privatizing the Lottery

Lew Caldwell was a 12-year (1967-79) independent black state representative from Chicago. He received his degree in social work from Northwestern University.

We stayed in the same cheap ($14.50 a night in the 1970’s) and now demolished hotel—the Hotel Governor—right next to the infamous Hotel St. Nicholas, where shoe boxes of former Secretary of State Paul Powell’s money was found.

That’s probably how we got to know each other.

I eventually learned that Lew had written a novel called “The Policy King.”

It was about Chicago politics.

A group of citizens decided to try to legalize policy.

When Lew told me about it, I had never heard of policy. It was a daily numbers game. Runners sold policy slips with numbers on them. If you had the correct number, you won the day’s prize.

Does that sound like today’s daily lottery or what?

The hero of the book wanted to legalize numbers and, basically, franchise their sale to individuals. The example used was the early insurance industry, which Lew said did not have a good reputation in the early days when salesmen went door-to-door.

The citizens group went to the mayor’s office and made the pitch.

The mayor’s reply was that, when they had some political power, they should come back and see him.

The group then organized and beat the local alderman.

He loaned me the only copy of the book he had, which I avidly read.

When the lottery decided to start a daily game, he introduced a bill to carry out the plan in Lew’s book.

Why not empower individuals, giving them an ability to make an honest living?

You’ll find this hard to believe, but we got House Bill 841 passed the House 173-0 in 1977.

Naturally, the idea died in the Senate.

We couldn’t have private citizens competing with the state and local stores, could we?

Also posted at McHenry County Blog.


Bill Baar 6:23 AM schools with a lottery (regressive tax) on some of the poorest in Illinois... this is progressive?

Anonymous,  10:11 PM  

and don't give Don Stephens his Casino?

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