August 14, 2018

Maine’s Moose Lottery: It’s About Gaming the System Isn’t It?

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Man is inherently dishonest even when they think they are not. Most come down on the side of the ends justify the means and/or there’s nothing wrong with a “white” lie. Also clawing at my brain is the idea that ethics is something you do when nobody is watching. As a result, untold amounts of energy are being expended on an hourly basis to “game” any system that is in place in order to gain a personal advantage.

Maine has an annual moose lottery. It’s not perfect and many (those who seem to never win) think it’s unfair. It’s about to become more complicated and corrupt. Why? Money!

A bill has been introduced that would allow money to exchange hands during a legal moose permit swap. According to the man who is in charge of permitting, around 100 moose permits are swapped each hunting season. The intent of the swapping regulation is to allow two people to exchange their permits for reasons other than a profit. Here’s a real example of one such swap that was beneficial to both parties involved without the need to buy or sell anything.

Two people were drawn as winners in the moose lottery. Both drew a permit in a zone they didn’t live near. It was not their first choice. As it happened, that if they swapped permits each would be closer to home for their hunt. What’s wrong with that? And wasn’t that the intent of the rule, to begin with?

Now it seems that complaints have surfaced because wealthy moose permit winners want to offer someone else with a permit gobs of money for an exchange (are their no limits?). Currently, that kind of remuneration is prohibited. It appears the most complaints came about when someone holding a moose permit for a calf or cow moose, wanted to pay someone who held a permit for a bull to swap. What’s wrong with that?

When applying for a chance for a moose permit, each applicant must choose the zone they prefer to hunt in. I believe the system allows for each applicant to name first and second preferences of what zones. Perhaps a third or more. You don’t get to choose what sex or age moose you will hunt, which makes one wonder who does.

I know of at least one, and I’m sure there are more, applicant who put in for a zone to hunt moose knowing it was the least requested zone increasing their chances of winning. The intent was that if they won, they could find someone to swap permits with. He won his permit but couldn’t find a swap. He didn’t go on the hunt and the permit was wasted. This is part of gaming the system. It still goes on and I would expect it would go on even more if money is allowed to enter the swap.

What might happen if I live near Zone 1, one of those areas few apply for because of its remoteness, and I am approached before the permitting process with a proposal to apply for Zone 1 and if I get drawn and draw a bull permit, I can make $10,000 or more by swapping my permit with someone else who has already arranged for a guide to take them on a Zone 1 hunt. Obviously, there are certain risks being taken here but millions of dollars are wagered each and every day for taking risks.

There are other issues to consider. It was brought up by someone else that allowing for the exchange of money would prompt those not interested in moose hunting to apply for a permit knowing that money could be made by “swapping.” In effect, the Maine Moose Lottery would become an endeavor at catering to the whims of wealthy hunters who could buy every permit issued.

Some may see all of this as not such a big deal. If so, where do we stop? If the demand by the wealthy to get a moose permit is so high, then why not begin with allowing the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to simply auction off the 2,000 to 3,000 permits allocated each year. Think of the revenue they could generate to go toward their raises and pensions. They could continue to work with the guides and outfitters in order that all can profit…all at the expense of the taxpayer who simply is seeking a chance at hunting a moose.

Consider that with the ability to buy a moose permit, interested parties will go far beyond locals and out-of-staters. International interest will grow as well.

Maybe the Maine Legislature will consider passing and modifying this proposal in order that they can tax it and they too will generate more income for raises and pensions. There is no end.

Money corrupts! It always has and always will. Each time the Maine Legislature allows for more infiltration of money the more corruption will take place. The system will continue to be gamed by those seeking an unlawful advantage for their selfish wants. You cannot avoid this!

Even though the MDIFW Joint Committee has put in language in the proposed bill that would prevent licensed guides from reaping any profits from buying and selling moose permits, or arranging for them, are members of the committee so naive to think this loophole can’t be beaten. Come on man! Under the table deals and straw “purchases” would run rampant. And those are the only ones I’m smart enough to think of.

In the meantime, the so-called honest moose hunter’s chances at a moose hunt are further diminished because the majority of permits are being taken up by nonhunting applicants for profits.

As the saying goes, “Money talks and shit walks.” I’m walking.

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