Tuesday, February 28, 2012


No, I don't mean the gentlemen jewel thief created by E. W. Hornung, the brother-in-law of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Nor am I referring to the historic Raffles Hotel in Singapore, which I once had the pleasure of visiting, and enjoying the famous rum-based Singapore Sling, invented there almost 100 years ago.

Instead, I want to talk about raffles as a fundraising device. I don't like these, partly on principle, although I have often cheerfully contributed to a neighborhood child's plea to support his school library or sports team.

I have always felt that gambling against the House is a mug's game. I very seldom make any kind of a monetary bet, although I have no objection to the concept of an even-chance bet with a friend. Accordingly, my pockets were not emptied recently when a couple of muffed punts kept the San Francisco 49ers out of the 2012 Superbowl.

Every year, the local PBS station (KQED) sends out a request for me to enter a raffle. It is illegal for the organizers to make the purchase of a ticket a condition of entry, so it is always stated in the fine print on the back page that you do not need to make a contribution to collect one of over a hundred prizes. For the price of a postage stamp, one can return all the numbers randomly assigned. I usually do this. (Barbara and I prefer to support the public television stations in our area (and near our Colorado "second home") with a tax-deductible donation.)

The return envelope has boxes at the back: one puts words on paper, telling How Cheerful the sender feels about contributing to KQED. The other box, in a smaller font, asks for a check if one is "not making a contribution at this time."

All the mailing is artfully designed to make the entrant suspicious that no prize will actually be awarded, unless a contribution is made. I trust that this is not true, but certainly I have never seen any publicity for a lucky winner who was "too cheap" to donate.

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