‘Comeback Cash’: Colorado launches $1 million Covid-19 ‘vaccine lottery’ modeled on successful Ohio initiative

Colorado has launched a vaccine lottery program offering $1 million to five state residents who’ve received the jab, Governor Jared Polis said, following suit after Ohio and a number of other states rolled out similar drawings.

Dubbed ‘Colorado Comeback Cash,’ the random drawings will be held weekly starting on June 4, with five winners set to take home $1 million each, the governor announced on Tuesday, adding that those aged 18 and older who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus will be entered into the contest automatically. 

“That’s right, you can win $1 million and you might already be entered. Anybody who got the vaccine in Colorado, or who gets the vaccine, will be an automatic participant in not one, not two, not three, not four, but five drawings for $1 million,” Polis said while standing in front of an oversized check.

We have seen this kind of drawing work in states like Ohio where they saw a surge in interest from launching their drawing, and we expect that we’ll see the same thing here.

Participants only require one dose to be eligible, and while the lottery is restricted to adults, Polis said a program for “scholarship prizes” would soon be announced for those aged 12 to 17.

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However, there is one catch: Lottery winners must agree to release their identities to the public, as “the purpose of the campaign is to encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” according to an official FAQ, which notes that personal immunization records would remain confidential.

Partnered with the Colorado Lottery and using federal funds provided for the state's advertising and marketing budget, the program follows similar efforts in Ohio, Maryland, New York and Oregon, which have seen mixed success. 

While Ohio marked a 28% boost in vaccinations for those 16 and older after announcing its ‘Vax-a-Million’ project, New York’s ‘Vax & Scratch’ lottery has failed to produce similar results. Despite a $5 million incentive and other freebies, New York’s vaccination numbers have dropped by 55% since their peak in early April, prompting Governor Andrew Cuomo to roll out additional inducements. The latest offer – free two-day passes to state parks – was announced on Monday.

As of Tuesday, 58.5% of Coloradans have received at least one vaccine dose, while more than 51% have been fully immunized, Polis said. His announcement came just hours after the US Treasury Department updated its guidance for how state and local governments can use federal relief funds, allowing for lotteries and other cash incentives to encourage vaccination.

“We are nothing if not responsive to good ideas,” said White House Covid-19 advisor Andy Slavitt, who credited Ohio Governor Mike DeWine for the lottery concept. “We encourage states to use their creativity to draw attention to vaccines and get their states and the country back to normal as quickly as possible.”

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