Blacktip Island’s aging electric generator is the heart of the island’s power grid. Frequent power outages have prompted residents to organize a lottery in which participants guess the time of the next outage, with the closest guess winning a cash prize. (photo courtesy of Dual Freq)
After numerous power outages on Blacktip Island in recent weeks, residents have organized a cash lottery that allows people to guess the day and time of the next power outage, with a portion of the winnings going to the Caribbean island’s aging power plant.
“Electricity’s been going out daily, sometimes multiple times,” lottery organizer Kay Valve said. “Public Works has blamed everything from a faulty generator to broken insulators to iguanas chewing on the power lines. The surges are killing our computers and other electronics, no matter how many surge protectors we use.
“We’re making lemonade out of lemons, and hopefully helping solve the problem in the process,” Valve said. “For a dollar, you pick the date, time and duration of the next outage. Half of the pot goes to the winner and half goes to the power plant for facility upgrades.”
The island’s Public Works Department has embraced the plan.
“The phone was ringing off the hook this past month with people howling mad about losing power,” public works chief Stoney MacAdam said. “It got to where we were scared to go out in public, folks were so hacked off.”
“Now it’s a game. People want the power to go out,” MacAdam said. “They cheer when it does. Of course, the down side is folks gaming the system. Yesterday we caught Dermott Bottoms trying to chop a power line with his machete so he could win the big jackpot. We’re alert for that kind of thing.”
The lottery is popular among Blacktip Island residents as well.
“If throwing in a few dollars’ll keep my A/C running, I’m all for it,” said resident Paloma Fairlead. “Plus, any money I win goes toward new internet modems. With all the outages and surges, I’m going through two a week these days.”
However, not all residents support the gaming.
“This is gambling, plain and simple,” said the Rev. Pierre Grunt. “It’s immoral and illegal. The next thing you know there’ll be casinos and who knows what else ruining Blacktip. I keep badgering Rafe Marquette to shut it down, but he wont do it.”
The island’s police constable downplayed the legal issues.
“It’s not strictly legal, but it is for the public good, so it’s really somewhat of a gray area,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “And Pierre seems to be the only one upset about it. I’m sure what the complaint is.
“The lottery people have been quite positive,” Marquette said. “They’ve even been kind enough to buy me a ticket for each round, and even when I don’t win, I usually get some sort of consolation prize.”
Blacktip Island public works officials would not comment on potential timelines to resolve the outages.