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Gordon Calls for Investigation of New Telephone Game

May 5, 1990

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ ″The Game,″ a million-dollar telephone trivia quiz promoted as ″a direct line to the American dream″ may violate interstate gambling laws, a Tennessee congressman says.

Participants in ″The Game,″ scheduled to start Monday, either lose the $2.99 cost of calling the 900-prefix telephone number or win prizes ranging from $5 to $1 million, says Rep. Bart Gordon.

″Participants in this game are effectively betting $2.99 that they will win money, much as participants in a lottery pay for the chance to win cash,″ Gordon said Friday, calling for a federal investigation into the contest.

″Only one of every 100 participants wins even the $5 prize,″ he said.

In ″The Game,″ produced by the Los Angeles-based 900 Million Productions, contestants call in and compete with as many as nine other callers to be the first to answer a trivia question.

The winner gets a toll-free number to call to compete with other first- round winners for a $5 prize. Second round winners proceed to a third round with $100 prizes.

The winner of seven rounds is supposed to win $1 million, which gives contestants odds of one in 10 million, said Kent Syler, a spokesman for the Democrat.

Gordon sent a letter to Attorney General Dick Thornburgh on Friday asking for an investigation into whether the game requires skill or dumb luck, said Kent Syler, administrative assistant for Gordon.

Syler said the only skill required by the game would be the dexterity of contestants’ fingers in pressing the numbers on the telephone.

″It is, at best, borderline gambling,″ Syler said. ″I can’t think of another opportunity a person has to pay a fee and win some money.″

Not so, said Rhonda Brauer of Hill and Knowlton Inc. in Los Angeles, who is handling public relations for ″The Game.″

″It’s definitely a game of skill and knowledge - and speed,″ she said. ″It is not a game of chance.″

She did say the questions are based on common knowledge. ″You have to be knowledgeable about things in the United States like how many keys are there on a piano,″ she said. There are 88 keys.

″The Game″ was developed by Allen Koss, who produced such television game shows as ″Tic Tac Dough,″ ″Concentration″ and ″The Joker’s Wild.″

While contestants can play ″The Game″ at any time, May 20 is the first date the company will give away the million-dollar prize, officials say, and other millionaires will be made every second Sunday thereafter.

″Only in America is it possible to win $1 million from the privacy of home,″ said Lynn Folse, vice president of 900 Million Productions. ″For the first time, people can use their touch-tone phones for a direct line to the American dream.″

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