Thursday, June 21, 2012

What to do in the Virgin Islands.... Play the local Lottery!

(guest blog by Shannon Wiseman)

So, yup, we won the lottery!  Not just a figure of speech about how we just moved to Paradise and all.... I mean it literally. We won $1,600 in the Virgin Islands Lottery about a month ago.

Not enough money to change our lives, but more than we have ever won in any drawing before.  We were psyched!  $1600 bucks is $1600 bucks! 

(if you are wondering how we will ever be able to spend it, please see Ken's previous entries regarding the pool;))

Winning the local lottery made me curious about it, so here is the deal:

Fact: The lottery tickets here are strange.

I used to give Ken a hard time about buying the sheets of stamp-like lottery tickets that are sold all over the island.  There are some pretty sketchy dealers loitering all over at stores, street corners, parking lots, etc. selling these wierd lotto tix, strung up on clothes lines. We bought our winning ticket from a woman outside of the auto parts store.

I figured the drawing had to be rigged or something, seemed kind of sketchy.

Each ticket features a different local art design, which is kind of neat, and all proceeds stay local, which is really good. They cost $30 per sheet of 25 tickets and several of the prizes are only available to you if you buy the whole sheet, so that seems to be what everyone does. Not worth buying only one stamp. Ken always said he likes it because even though the prizes aren't big, the odds are good.

I never expected we would win, so it seemed out of the blue when Ken called me over to his computer one morning and had me double check the numbers online --- YES, WE WERE WINNERS!

So then... I got more curious about his comment that the "odds are good"...  we won once, but what are the chances we will ever win again?

I am sorry, by the way, but I was a statistics geek in college - I am intrigued by the small print of anything.

The VI Lottery "Traditional Game" is what is lotto is called.  There are 34,000 sheets sold and 4,744 prizes ranging from $30 to $175,000 and many different ways to win.  The total jackpot pool is $330,000.  So, hoping my basic math is correct....  You have a 14% chance of winning a prize, at least winning your money back.  Not bad!  Drawings are usually every two weeks, but sometimes they double up when they do a "big one" (aka EX drawing, like they are having TODAY here, first prize is $500k and there are many more bonus prizes, sheets of tickets are $50 though).

Compare to multi-state Powerball where each ticket only costs $2 and the first prize is sometimes $100 million or more... BUT your odds of winning at least your $2 money back are only 3% there and odds are 1 in 175 million that you will win the jackpot. Never gonna happen for me (especially since I don't buy tickets?:))

Ok, so I am convinced, it might be more fun to play the local Traditional lotto and win maybe less, but more often!
Collecting our prize money was another VI experience. If you win over $1200, you have to go to the main lottery office to get your money.

Ken bought the ticket without my encouragement, so really he won, not me - I guess that is why I volunteered to do the goose chase to redeem the prize and get the check? :)

I got the office address from their website.  I went there after finding downtown parking (not easy!), guess what? they have moved!  Walked another few blocks (of course, that is after revealing to several random people in the dealer's office lobby that I had a winning ticket in my bag before being re-directed down a narrow alley!) and then located their new office.  I was dripping with sweat at that point and the A/C was so cold in their office, I would have welcomed a typical St. Thomas wait, but alas... I was the only one there and was helped right away. 

It was a multi-day process from there with lots of paperwork and a couple more trips back and forth downtown through the sketchy alley way and into the freezing cold office (that must be where the lotto profits go?? To WAPA for the A/C?:)), I finally got the check!

Nothing is easy here, but it was well worth the $1,600.

ANYWAY -  we have our sheet of tickets for the Extra-Ordinary Drawing for today June 21st.  We bought them from a different dealer this time, he hangs his tickets outside of the Cost U Less store. 
Wish us luck!

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