Editorial: Student ticket raffle has merits


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University of Iowa students were invited to strap on their gambling boots while maybe catching a few football games in the process. Earlier this week, the UI announced its creation of a raffle offering students the chance to collect one of 11 attractive prizes. The price of admission?

Purchasing a student football ticket by the Aug. 1 deadline. The biggest prize? Free in-state tuition, or the equivalent reduction for out-of-state students, handed out to five very lucky students. But the contest was suspended quickly because of legal concerns; so many hearts are probably broken.

While the knee jerk cynical reaction would be to chide the UI for such a display, we feel that the promotion was an honest enough attempt at getting more prideful, chanting students into Kinnick Stadium, and that something to its effect should be eventually be implemented. 

Despite how it might feel in the stands, the Hawkeyes have seen a dramatic decline in the number of students attending home games over the past few years.  As reported in The Daily Iowan Wednesday, fewer than 75 percent of the stadium’s student seating — typically 10,000 spots — were sold last year. At the time of the report, even fewer had been sold for this season. With last year’s Outback Bowl appearance, such stagnation is surprising and probably says something interesting things about changing priorities among UI students.

The biggest issue people seem to take is that the contest seemed to be, at its core, gambling. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals told the DI that the university is allowed to hold charitable raffles so long as contestants enter with equal amounts of money paid in cash. This is where the raffle enters a gigantic, eerie, gray area.

There are a number of different purchasing options for students, and electronic money transfers, believe it or not, don’t involve the transaction of physical currency. That’s a lot of young adults, 18 to 20 years of age, playing an online roulette board with a spot on the wheel costing $140 to $175 (depending on students today membership and whether the Nebraska game is what someone feels like doing on Black Friday), at least from this point of view. The university did not contact the department for approval of the contest.

It’s also a little concerning that the school is able to sling around a number of glamorous prizes, being able to offer such gifts (free tuition, $500 credit for books, and $1,000 for groceries at Hy-Vee) with impending cuts in funding and increasing college debt. 

But regardless of legal implications, the university’s intent seems genuine enough. If the student seating isn’t sold out, remaining spots would be transferred into seating for the general public, so the program was offering to take a hit to keep home football games a little more about students. The other, more legal — though the contest’s legality is still being discussed — option would be to reduce ticket prices by spreading out the value of the prizes, but assuming all 10,000 tickets are somehow sold, this would equate to a measly reduction of under $5 per student, a less-attractive attempt at getting the tickets sold.

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