Article Index


This is a failed grant application.

Rational Lottery



Non-profit organizations working on progressive issues are chronically underfunded. A solution is to use a lottery approach, where the lottery entrant specifies the charitable target of their contribution in the event that they loose. This lottery will be operated only as a website to reduce operating costs and thus increase prizes. The Rational Lottery itself would be a non-profit organization.

The second problem is that corporations keep their internal finances a closely guarded secret, enabling them to perform illegal and/or unethical acts with a minimal fear of being caught. With the advent of the World Wide Web, we should be seeking higher level of transparency in operation, specifically web based organizations (and ultimately all for profit organizations) should make detailed accounting available on the web. The Rational Lottery would lead by example, by putting up detailed internal accounting of its operation, even though this is not legally required. It is possible that winners names would be not made public and there would be some other small set of confidential data. Generally speaking, however, a detailed enough accounting would be available to insure the funds were not being used illegally or unethically (unless you start with the presumption that gambling is unethical).

The third and final problem is that generally speaking there is little discussion and debate about the potential negative impact of new technologies. One solution is to take a small fraction of incoming revenues from this lottery (perhaps 1% or less) and make it available as prize money for people who write essays which both identify problems and propose pragmatic and/or clever solutions to he hazards of new technologies. All technologies will be eligible for review, but special attention will be given to the problems and proposal associated with the World Wide Web. If it is acceptable to him, we could call this the "Mander Prize", for Jerry Mander author of Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television and outstanding technology critic.

The are three different possible approaches to dealing with legal restrictions associated with gambling.
1) Organize the Rational Lottery as a non-profit club, where members join and pool resources. [This may not prove legal].
2) Work with native American groups which are permitted to operate electronic gambling services (like
3) Locate the server and supporting organization off-shore.
The later two solutions have both been implemented already.

There are several factors that should contribute to the success of this idea.
1) The Saatchi-Saatchi commitment of $50,000 in marketing .
2) The explosion of Internet based gambling (estimated at US$ 60 million in 1996 and US$ 600 million in 1997).
3) Increased prize money over most lotteries (typical lotteries give 30 to 35% away in prize)
4) The possibility that the non-profit contribution will be tax deductible [this will need to be investigated by lawyers].

While this idea may not be either patentable or copyrightable it is being submitted based on communications with Joan Doan of Saatchi-Saatchi which are enclosed.