Lady Lazy or Lady Luck! Many Jamaicans living off a ‘rake’
For many, this is not their only source of income, but games of chance - especially the popular Cash Pot - prove to be their main source as they struggle to survive in some of the poorest communities across the island.
With some Jamaicans living hand to mouth, they depend on the popular game to put food on their tables, lunch money in their children's pockets, and stock their carts and stalls.
For these Jamaicans, everything is a 'rake' as each digit from 1 to 36 is assigned a number of meanings.
So if the rake is a ghost or duppy, then it's number 1 that is to be bought. If it's a small house, that's number 10. And if it's a bad girl, 21 is the number, and so on.
"If mi win Cash Pot every day, mi no have to work fi $5,000 a week. A day's work a pay $3,000 to $5,000 and mi can win that in a one day," argued Sheron Ellis, a resident of Fletcher's Land in Kingston, as she waited outside a Supreme Ventures gaming outlet near Heroes Circle recently.
"If mi win a pan every day from Monday to Sunday, dat pass a week's pay. Mi can buy a ticket for $200 and get $5,200. That is more than the money I would work," argued the woman who, at noon, had made two earlier bets - one ending in win and the other in a loss.
"This morning, mi have $600 and mi gamble $200 and lose. And mi go back and gamble $200 and win $750. So you see it; mi win back mi $600 and win a hundred and odd dollar on it," said Ellis as she indicated that she is unemployed and a winning Cash Pot ticket ensures a meal each night.
"Mi a work from mi a six, and now mi a 46. A nuh nothing if me nah work now," said Ellis, as she offered her take on poverty and hunger.
"It come in like fasting. You ever hear people a dead from hungry yet? No. So if mi win a money, we cook, and if mi gamble and lose, mi just bear it," she said, adding that purchasing food for her child is her main priority.
Ellis, as she waited, favoured number 26 for the mid-afternoon draw. Even if that number did not play, the $750 she won in the morning was enough to buy lunch and place a $50 bet in a later draw.
"Mi love Cash Pot. It addictive like smoking. But mi can't take smoking 'cause it can't give me what I want. It only makes me sick," declared Ellis.
Sonia Davidson, vice-president of group corporate communications at Supreme Ventures, told The Sunday Gleaner last Tuesday that Cash Pot remains the most played of the company's lottery games. It is followed by the Pick 3, Pick 4, Top Draw and Money Time games.
"Our games are played by all demographics. However, the affordability of Cash Pot - $10 for a wager to win $260 - makes it an attractive option for those players with limited disposable income," said Davidson.
"The game is fun, especially when players meet at the agent location, share their experiences, and make choices on which number to buy from 1 to 36," she said.
On its website, Supreme Ventures Limited reported that its revenue grew by 14.16 per cent for the first quarter of this year, bringing total revenues to $11.775 billion. That represents a $1.5-billion increase over the corresponding period last year.
But while Supreme Ventures has been smiling over its first-quarter results, Elaine Taylor is growing frustrated.
The street vendor and mother of five says every dollar she wins from Cash Pot goes directly into putting goods on her small stall or towards her children's lunch money, but she has not been winning much lately.
"It come in like you lose more than how you win nowadays; mi want to boycott it right now," bemoaned Taylor, as she scrolled down her 'kent' - a document made by her showing all the winning Cash Pot numbers for the last six weeks.
The code-looking sequence seemed for her eyes only as she squinted at it in concentration.
"Sometime mi put mi winnings on mi stall when mi ketch a good money, like a $5,000 or so, but most time, is it mi use send mi youth dem go school," Taylor told our news team.
"Bus fare alone for my big daughter is $1,000 a week. Mi little boy lunch money is $750 a week, plus break money, and then mi have mi baby weh mi have to give porridge and milk and dem things deh," said Taylor.
"So is Cash Pot full out all of the money gaps, and sometimes mi have a little help from mi husband," she said, noting that everything "adds up".
Taylor said that her kent was revealing the number 25 would be played at midday the day she spoke with our news team.
"Anytime you a win Cash Pot, you have to lick him (win) big - like a $500 number or a $1,000 number to get anything out of it. But you know we can't afford them money there," she said, noting that a $500 ticket would win her $13,000.
Lennox Scott, 27, a resident of Clovelly Road and an avid gambler, said while his winnings help to take care of his two-year-old daughter, he finds claims that Cash Pot winnings are the only source of income for some hard to believe.
"Mi hear people talk seh dem live off of it, buy furniture and dem things there off of it. Mi think a lie dem a tell about that," said Scott.
"Nothing nuh go so! I don't see how anybody can live off a Cash Pot alone; dem must have some other form of income," he argued. "Cash Pot is like a casino thing. When you win, it help out a little situation," he added.
In nearby Allman Town, the lottery debate sparked controversy among cart vendor Kevin Stupart and a group of women gathered on a nearby sidewalk.
"Me now, me will buy all a $30 number ... ," said Stupart, as he is interrupted by laughter and an outburst of "you can't gamble dem small money deh" from one of the women.
"You can gamble more because you believe seh when you gamble big, you fi win big. But mi is a hustler and mi have to think about my yard and my cart first," countered Stupart.
"You can go around the corner and get or hustle a five bills ($500), but mi can't do that. Mi can't drain my little stall on gambling," said Stupart with a laugh.
At a Supreme Ventures outlet on Hitchens Street, also in Allman Town, 65-year-old Pet Brown gingerly climbed down the steps as she checked the ticket with her three options - 14, 30 and 23 - for the midday draw.
"Sometimes mi buy it for $30, sometimes for $50, and sometimes mi buy it for $100. But mi a buy Cash Pot from it start. Mi love it," she said. "If mi win a big money, mi buy things with it still, like food and clothes and things, but if mi no win big, mi just come back wid it come gamble," said the elderly woman.
None of the persons interviewed for the story bet on the winning midday number that day as the number 9 - or cow - was drawn.