# Forbes on Mega Millions and Lottery Strategies

Apparently — and this may shock you — you really can’t guarantee a win in the upcoming Mega Millions lottery drawing (with the jackpot at about \$640 million at the time of this posting). While it seems that one could technically have the money to do it, the time and resources would render it impossible. Although, it seems optimal lottery strategy has paid dividends in the past. Forbes writes:

Over at the Washington Post, Brad Plumer looks into the question of whether a wealthy person could guarantee himself a win by buying every possible ticket in the Mega Millions lottery, and discovers that the answer is no:

Of course, another strategy would simply be to buy up every single ticket combination. That would cost \$176 million. But you’d be guaranteed to win about \$293 million after taxes. Good deal, right? But there’s one big hitch: “First, if it takes five seconds to fill out each card, you’d need almost 28 years just to mark the bubbles on the game tickets. You’d also use up the national supply of special lottery paper and lottery-machine printing ink well before all your tickets could be printed out.” (Also, if just one other person picked the winning number, you’d end up losing \$30 million all told.)

It’s true that you can’t guarantee a win in this Mega Millions game, because it’s too likely that you’ll have to split the jackpot. If 300 million tickets sell, the average jackpot winner ends up with only 48 percent of the jackpot. If 600 million sell, you’ll only get 28 percent on average.

But it is not true, as a general proposition, that a lottery can never be cornered. In 1992, an Australian investor syndicate succeeded in cornering the Virginia Lottery. At the time, the odds of hitting that lottery were about 1 in 7 million, and the jackpot had grown to \$27 million dollars. The Australians bought about 5 million tickets (logistics prevented them from buying every combination) and won the jackpot.

There were a handful of key differences between the Virginia situation and Mega Millions. The most important is that there was not a similar frenzy over the jackpot: even though playing the lottery had become a positive-expectation endeavor, there was not a similar rush to buy tickets, so the Australians could feel better about their odds of winning the jackpot alone.

The Australians also figured out the logistics of buying tons of lottery tickets. Plumer talks about how you would never have the time to fill out all the Scantron forms you would need to buy every lotto combination. But the Australians didn’t have to fill out any Scantron forms—they paid retailers to sell them blocks of lottery tickets in bulk. At least one retailer closed its lottery terminal to the public in order to constantly produce tickets for the syndicate.

Even so, the Australians only managed to purchase five million lottery tickets. And after their win, Virginia and some other states instituted rules to make it more difficult to buy lottery tickets in bulk. So, their feat would be difficult to replicate.

Virginia isn’t the only place where a lottery game has reached positive expectation. When I was in college, the jackpot on Mass Millions (then the big jackpot game of the Massachusetts Lottery) reached over \$42 million, with win odds of about 1 in 13 million. This is because nobody hit the jackpot for nearly two years. Yet, there was very little attention focused on the huge jackpot—probably because lotto players were drawn to Mega Millions, which featured bigger jackpots with much longer odds of winning.

During this time, I bought a few Mass Millions tickets, and if I hadn’t been a capital-constrained college student, I probably would have bought more. But why didn’t somebody with lots of cash come in and do what happened in Virginia? The answer is probably that logistics made it too difficult to buy the 13 million tickets you would have needed to guarantee a win.

Buying 176 million tickets to guarantee a Mega Millions win would be even more difficult, and you would have less time to do it, since the game is drawn twice a week, unlike most states’ once-weekly big jackpot games.

So, cornering a positive-expectation lottery is difficult, and it probably will never be possible with Mega Millions. But with state-level games, if you have a few tens of millions of dollars to throw around and are in a place with the right rules about ticket sales, you might find an occasional opportunity.

# Making Sweet Music at Heartland

"It’s like a family reunion."

"It puts a face with a name."

"I really get excited when I see people get together who’ve never met."

Those are three participant descriptions of a mid-March event hosted by Heartland Payment Systems. Titled "Beyond the Win: Heartland Summit 2012," the gathering is part business meeting, full festival of fun and recognition.

"We bring the sales force in, our external team for all 50 states," explains Jeff Nichols, executive director of the Jeffersonville-based Heartland Service Center Operations. Heartland, founded in 1997 and headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, is the fifth largest payment processor in the United States.

"We work with those folks on a daily basis," Nichols continues. "The real big value of the overall summit is it’s more sales driven. We always roll out our newest products. The nighttime is all about celebrating our employees."

Hearty handshakes, and more often hugs, were the norm as I attended one of the evening celebrations. Why was I there? To do a story on the Jeffersonville operation as one of the Best Places to Work in Indiana. It was easy to see through both that event and interviews with some of the Heartland team the next day at their state-of-the-art home why the company earned the honor.

My full Heartland story will be in the May-June BizVoice magazine. It debuts May 3, the night of the Best Places to Work in Indiana awards dinner. It’s not too late to attend the dinner with 70 of Indiana’s top workplaces as determined by their employees. If you want to participate in the 2013 program, learn more here.

The awards event I attended as part of the summit was capped by a Fourth Street Live (if you’ve been to downtown Louisville, you’re undoubtedly familiar with this venue) concert performance by Nichols and a talented group of other local musicians. A Steely Dan tribute was the theme for the night, and I tried not to be too offended when some of the attendees mentioned how they really didn’t know too much about the band, which enjoyed its greatest popularity in the mid to late 1970s (translation: they’re young and I’m getting old).

Steely Dan featured some excellent music and talented artists, but then that’s another story. For now, congratulations to Heartland (and all the Best Places winners) and stay tuned for more about some great workplaces.

# Slingshot SEO Co-founder: It’s All About Relationships

Indianapolis-based Slingshot SEO is a company making a splash nationwide, and its co-founder Jeremy Dearringer authored a very informative column for Inc. The message serves as a great reminder to businesses not get so bogged down in your "mission" that you forget what customers value most — relationships. He also offers some ways to leverage social media tools to make that happen.

Relationships. In business, that single word may be the most important.

Genuine relationships were the foundation of our partnership. This helped us earn the trust of our first few clients, which in turn provided us with mentors to help avoid the common pitfalls of start-ups, created strong advocates for us in the business community, and motivated early employees to take a chance on working with us. And that’s just the beginning.

Recently, at Slingshot SEO, by request of our new CEO, we dove into exploring factors that led clients to renew at the end of their 12-month contracts. We put together a task force including the three founders, the director of SEO performance, and the VP of client success. During our first meeting, members of our leadership team suggested seemingly obvious answers like ROI and ranking results. Not satisfied, we decided to dig deeper. We brainstormed a list of possible factors, surveyed our client success teams and their clients, analyzed results, and sifted through Salesforce data.

Over a month later, our report concluded that the No. 1 reason clients renew with us: strong relationships.

While results and ROI are elements we focus on for every client, these factors placed second to a positive relationship. Some clients, despite witnessing amazing campaign results and phenomenal ROI, opted out of renewing due to lack of a strong relationship or bond with our team. Others failed to renew because our champion within the client organization moved on.

With our newfound understanding about the importance of relationships, we now ask ourselves, how do we build these strong connections? How do we maximize the benefits of them?

Most successful entrepreneurs quickly realize that time is one of their most valuable assets. Forging and maintaining strong business relationships while trying to run a business can be extremely challenging. Often our personal lives suffer as a result, much like in the movie CLICK, featuring Adam Sandler, which hit so close to home that it brought tears to my eyes.

Fortunately, the advent of smart phones and social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook has allowed us to expand the number of people we can effectively maintain a relationship with. I once heard that the typical number of people you can truly maintain a solid relationship with is somewhere between 150-250. Generally, this number is displayed by how many people will come to your wedding or funeral.

I’ve found that staying in touch with business contacts via email, LinkedIn, and Twitter has reduced the number of in-person meetings required to keep relationships fresh. This practice is extended company wide. At Slingshot SEO, we use Twitter to socially interact with and support our clients, supplementing more standard communication such as in-person meetings, conference calls and email.

Networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter are especially useful, as they also allow you to influence your networks’ perceptions of your key contacts. Leaving recommendations on LinkedIn or custom, personal FollowFriday suggestions on Twitter are a couple of ways to earn relationship karma. You can also leverage these social networks to forge and strengthen relationships by jumping into public conversations and answering questions related to your expertise. A simple tweet, retweet or comment on these social networks can help keep your name in front of your contacts.

# Team Effort for Warsaw’s Orthopedic Industry

The good news about being an orthopedic company located in Warsaw, Indiana (the orthpedic capital of the world) is that there are many talented industry employees. The bad thing about such an arrangement is that the battle to attract and keep those skillful workers can be a competitive one.

A number of Medtronic (one of the 2012 Best Places to Work in Indiana) team members have made career stops at more than one of the Warsaw organizations (big and small) in the field. And while there is competition, Roy Wiley, director of manufacturing and planning at the Medtronic operation, wanted to be sure to tout the OrthoWorx initiative.

"This is the companies getting together and realizing that to get the right type of talent base we have to collaboratively advance the opportunities around Warsaw — the cultural amenities, the schools. It has been an extremely positive development for everybody, us included. Everybody realizes we’ve got a good base (of workers) here, but if we keep stealing from each other, we won’t grow."

During a visit to Medtronic, Wiley also shared the story of a phone call that came in after 5 p.m. on a Friday about a special implant needed for a young person’s life-altering surgery early the following week. Team members, he relates, stayed beyond their normal shifts and were "excited and proud to be able to do something to help that child." That is just one of many heartwarming stories of a company focused on spinal implants.

Medtronic will be profiled in the May-June BizVoice, following the May 3 Best Places to Work in Indiana awards dinner. It’s not too late to attend that event, honoring 70 outstanding Indiana workplaces. To learn more about participating in the 2013 Best Places program, go here.

# Hoosier Park’s Indy Restaurant Allows You to Eat and Bet Like a ‘Winner’

Many downtown Indianapolis workers have likely noticed Hoosier Park’s off-track betting site moved from its Washington Street location last year. In late 2011, a new and improved version opened up at 20 N. Pennsylvania Street — and is now called Hoosier Park’s Winner’s Circle. Having heard positive reports, I took my girlfriend to the restaurant on Saturday. My prime rib was quite enjoyable and I was able to catch the end of the Ohio State/Syracuse game at the bar — which has to be one of the better sports bars in Indy (and a blocked off smoking room allows non-smoking patrons to enjoy a smoke-free experience throughout the facility).

We also placed a bet on a harness race. My only complaint on the evening was the tank job my chosen horse displayed, running out of gas with a couple lengths left and causing me to lose out on \$20. That money could have ultimately sponsored my consumption of several delightful Indiana craft beers on tap, including Triton Brewing’s Deadeye Stout and Sun King’s Sunlight Cream Ale (both tremendous choices). Here’s an article from Indiana Economic Digest about Winner’s Circle’s initial opening:

“This is truly a redefinition of an off-track betting facility,” (said Hoosier Park COO Jim Brown). “We are so proud of what we have developed in this entire facility.”

The focal point of the \$3 million project, Brown said, is the pub and grille. But the raceway lounge is a “real state of the art off-track wagering area.”

“Downtown Indianapolis hosts over 18 million visitors a year,” he said. “This facility offers us a great opportunity to showcase Hoosier Park in a downtown venue.”

Brown said the facility is an upgrade from the previous Indianapolis OTB site, about two blocks from the new location, and he said amenities will include a one-of-a-kind LED bar top and video wall. The wagering lounge has been described as Las Vegas-style, and the grille is racing-themed but still accessible to non-race fans, he said. There will be 50 televisions and 50 carrels, or personal betting areas.

“There will be a touch of Hoosier Park there,” Brown said. “But there are also new and different elements. We tried to take the best of Hoosier Park and transplant it into downtown Indianapolis. It is designed for singles, couples and groups whether they are racing fans or not. Literally, there is something for everyone.”

He wants the venue to be known as the place to get everything from the best hamburger in town to the best steak. The bar, he said, will feature cocktails made from freshly squeezed juices and outstanding martinis as well as more than a dozen beers on tap.

“This is not your mom and dad’s OTB,” Brown said. “This will be a great dining, entertainment and racing venue. There is something there for everyone. We are excited and can’t wait to get the facility opened.”

# Is it Time to Apologize for all the Apologizing?

I realize many readers of our blog may not be card carrying members of the Bill Maher Fan Club, but his recent column in The New York Times is worth considering. Additionally, Ragan.com asked whether the bevy of businesses and brands apologizing lately should also heed Maher’s advice.

Read Maher’s entire piece in the NYT. But here’s a sample:

If it weren’t for throwing conniption fits, we wouldn’t get any exercise at all.

I have a better idea. Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize.

If that doesn’t work, what about this: If you see or hear something you don’t like in the media, just go on with your life. Turn the page or flip the dial or pick up your roll of quarters and leave the booth.

The answer to whenever another human being annoys you is not “make them go away forever.” We need to learn to coexist, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck.

When the lady at Costco gives you a free sample of its new ham pudding and you don’t like it, you spit it into a napkin and keep shopping. You don’t declare a holy war on ham.

# National Experts Weigh In: RTW Making a Difference

In the economic development world, Site Selection magazine is a major player. People pay attention to its annual rankings and those in the business of helping identify new company locations regard it highly.

It’s no surprise that the publication would feature a story on Indiana’s right-to-work law. And the reaction of the site selection community is expectedly strong; after all, Indiana is the first state to make the RTW move in the last 11 years.

Below are a few very encouraging quotes from the article; find it in full here.

"It changes to the positive my perception of Indiana’s business climate," writes a site consultant. "My marketplace is north Texas. I can give personal testimony that my state has attracted many relocated facilities from the Midwest for two reasons: the absence of a personal and corporate income tax and Texas’ right-to-work laws. I would expect Indiana to be able to keep more of their existing employers now rather than watch them leave for greener pastures."

Also weighing in is Robert Price, director of Atlanta-based Herron Consulting: "This issue is also closely followed overseas," he notes. "Many of our offshore clients are aware of the implications of U.S. right-to-work laws, and the significance of these laws in the site selection decision process has not waned. Some states are exhibiting greater confidence in their ability to make difficult decisions as they come to terms with the ‘new economy,’ and the change in Indiana reflects this."

"This really puts pressure on the other states in the Midwest," says site selection consultant Bob Ady, president of Mount Prospect, Ill.-based Ady International Co. "Site selection is a question of differentiation, and this is a major differentiator for Indiana and its neighboring states and throughout the Midwest."

All things being equal, would Ady steer a client to an Indiana site today — or higher up on a finalist list of Midwestern states? "Yes," he says, "though we just make recommendations. It’s up to the companies in the end. I’m working right now with an international company that is now specifically considering Indiana, where it wasn’t previously. Right-to-work has already had an impact."

# Report: Education Woes Threaten U.S. National Security

Most of us would concede the United States has an education problem. Where many of us differ is how to remedy the situation. But a new report from an independent task force (sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations) argues that a solution is needed sooner rather than later, and that American security is at stake. Here’s an overview, which includes a link to the full report:

The United States’ failure to educate its students leaves them unprepared to compete and threatens the country’s ability to thrive in a global economy and maintain its leadership role, finds a new Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)–sponsored Independent Task Force report on U.S. Education Reform and National Security.

"Educational failure puts the United States’ future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk," warns the Task Force, chaired by Joel I. Klein, former head of New York City public schools, and Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state. The country "will not be able to keep pace—much less lead—globally unless it moves to fix the problems it has allowed to fester for too long," argues the Task Force.

The report notes that while the United States invests more in K-12 public education than many other developed countries, its students are ill prepared to compete with their global peers. According to the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international assessment that measures the performance of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics, and science every three years, U.S. students rank fourteenth in reading, twenty-fifth in math, and seventeenth in science compared to students in other industrialized countries.

Though there are many successful individual schools and promising reform efforts, the national statistics on educational outcomes are disheartening:

More than 25 percent of students fail to graduate from high school in four years; for African-American and Hispanic students, this number is approaching 40 percent.
In civics, only a quarter of U.S. students are proficient or better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Although the United States is a nation of immigrants, roughly eight in ten Americans speak only English and a decreasing number of schools are teaching foreign languages.

A recent report by ACT, the not-for-profit testing organization, found that only 22 percent of U.S. high school students met "college ready" standards in all of their core subjects; these figures are even lower for African-American and Hispanic students.

The College Board reported that even among college-bound seniors, only 43 percent met college-ready standards, meaning that more college students need to take remedial courses.

The lack of preparedness poses threats on five national security fronts: economic growth and competitiveness, physical safety, intellectual property, U.S. global awareness, and U.S. unity and cohesion, says the report. Too many young people are not employable in an increasingly high-skilled and global economy, and too many are not qualified to join the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or have an inadequate level of education.

# Bad News on the Broadband Front

Announcing a national priority and making private sector investments apparently isn’t enough to improve broadband penetration across the United States.

A fall 2009 survey by the FCC found that 65% of Americans had broadband at home. A February 2012 survey came up with an identical number. Why? According to a report from TechNet, that last third of non-adopters (older, less educated and poorer) is a difficult audience to reach. Add in the recession — 9% in the latest survey said they had to cut back or cancel Internet service due to economic troubles — and the picture begins to clear.

The10-page TechNet report is here, with some brief analysis below by the State Science & Technology Institute:

The study identifies several reasons behind the plateau and calls for better coordination among policymakers and private stakeholders to improve adoption rates. Meanwhile, some states have big plans in the works to improve their broadband networks, including governors in Hawaii and New York pushing for funding to expand Internet access to underserved areas. Ohio’s governor is taking a different approach in hopes of attracting new employers and cutting-edge researchers with a \$10 million state-led initiative boasting broadband speeds that officials say would far exceed the rest of the nation.

The TechNet report finds the number of Americans with broadband at home has remained around 65 percent since 2009 when the National Broadband Plan was implemented under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). At the same time, smartphone adoption and apps usage has grown significantly. However, this is not because smartphone users are swapping broadband service at home with smartphone usage; rather, connected individuals are increasing their access while others are left behind. A society more "digitally excluded," the authors contend, contributes to a smaller domestic market for tech goods and services and a less innovative economy.

Coordination and assessment is seen as key to pushing past the plateau. A clearinghouse for best practices that assembles program information would help local authorities better understand broadband opportunities and help states understand what other states are doing, the report finds.

# Facebook: Employers Should Not Demand Passwords

There’s been some buzz lately in the social media and human resources arenas about the practice of employers asking for Facebook passwords from job applicants. While the practice sounded risky from the start anyway, Facebook is now chiming in, siding with those who think it’s way out of bounds. USA Today reports (via the Indy Star):

Facebook is warning employers not to demand the passwords of job applicants, saying that it’s an invasion of privacy that opens companies to legal liabilities.

The social networking company is also threatening legal action.

An Associated Press story this week documented cases of job applicants who are being asked, at the interview table, to reveal their Facebook passwords so their prospective employers can check their backgrounds.

In a post on Friday, Facebook’s chief privacy officer cautions that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer may open itself up to claims of discrimination if it doesn’t hire that person.

"If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password," Erin Egan wrote.