Can you actually win the San Francisco Dream House? | KALW

Can you actually win the San Francisco Dream House?

Feb 12, 2019

Erin Drake-Prior has a dirty little secret; she has bought into the San Francisco Dream House Raffle without fully trusting that it’s real. So she asked: “Is it even possible to win the dream house in the San Francisco Dream House Raffle?” KALW’s Kristin McCandless went out to find an answer and ended up deep in the history of our country.

For the last ten years Yerba Buena’s glittery ads for their dream home giveaways have been plastered around the city, popping up on your television, and sent via post card into your mailbox. But is it actually possible to get the keys to the house?

The short answer is yes, it is! The longer answer is that it is if 65,000 tickets are sold and if you end up being that one person who wins the grand prize and if you choose the house over the money. That’s an annuity of 4 million dollars or a lump sum of 2.8 million — which is less after taxes. And in the last ten years, winners have chosen the money every time.

So why do so many people enter a Dream House Raffle that doesn’t actually give away any dream homes? Attendees at the raffle’s drawing stated everything from “the fantasy” to “winning that house” to “supporting a great cause” to flat-out embarrassment.
 
So Yerba Buena is cashing out on the thrill of gambling. And if you want to get mad at them for doing so, here’s the kicker--you’d have to get mad at a huge factor in how our entire country was formed.

Roger Dunstan, a retired commissioner for California Gambling Control, informed us that “the Revolutionary War was funded in part by lotteries,” along with “educational facilities, public works, many colleges, Harvard, Yale.” But how trustworthy could gambling for a good cause, or charitable gambling, be? Dunstan says back then the “dark shadow over lotteries in the country is how easy it was to cheat.” Too many people ran away with the money. It was too hard to trust. But what about today? What about our dream house?

According to Dunstan, “Gambling is so well regulated now that the chances of a big scandal are much much smaller. I’m inclined to see it as, ya know, one form of entertainment that’s probably going to grow and will have to compete with other forms of entertainment.”

Alright, Erin, looks like you can keep playing. Just remember that even with charitable gambling, the odds are never in your favor.