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The Tax on Unlucky People
November 28, 2012 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Tonight's Powerball lottery drawing was for more than half a billion dollars, the 2nd largest in U.S. history. The Multi-state Lottery Association answers your frequently asked and not so frequently asked questions about the Powerball Lottery with a side of snark. Find out if you won the Powerball Jackpot.
posted by Jahaza (74 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I really wanted that last link to be a single-serving website that just said NO in big letters.
posted by mightygodking at 8:08 PM on November 28, 2012 [20 favorites]




I did NOT win and now I can't live the nouveau-high-bohemian lifestyle of my dreams. Dammit. Well I'll settle for ice cream.
posted by naju at 8:08 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really wanted that last link to be a single-serving website that just said NO in big letters.

For me it just said "HTTP Error 503. The service is unavailable." Which is pretty much the same thing.
posted by grouse at 8:10 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is offensively wasteful on so many levels.

Not to mention blindly stupid on so many levels.

Sigh.
posted by chasing at 8:10 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hmm, I'm guessing it's not just this Metafilter post that killed their web site.
posted by Jahaza at 8:12 PM on November 28, 2012


OK, the FAQ link is hilarious:

MY NUMBERS ARE: XX-XX-XX-XX-XX-XX; DID I WIN?
I can't check numbers for a million folks a week. You can check your numbers on the web site. Teach a man to fish.

I GOT AN EMAIL SAYING THAT I WON THE LOTTERY; IS IT LEGITIMATE?
NO. It is a common scam [...] You should never send money to these people. You should never give your bank account number or your mother's maiden name to anyone. You should never run with scissors.

DO POWERBALL TICKETS EXPIRE?
Yes. The Universe is decaying and nothing lasts forever.

posted by lalex at 8:12 PM on November 28, 2012 [17 favorites]


I don't think it is stupid. I buy an occasional ticket to spice up my daydreams with a little tiny sprinkle of possibility. It's not enough to ever win but it is enough to add just a little a frisson of excitement. That's worth $2 to me every 4 or 5 months or so.

Now buying two tickets at a time.. that's just silly.
posted by srboisvert at 8:17 PM on November 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


This is offensively wasteful on so many levels.

Except for all the money that goes to state governments to help with education and other projects.

For example, apparently in Michigan, lottery sales raised 770 million dollars for Michigan education in this year alone.
posted by tittergrrl at 8:18 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is offensively wasteful on so many levels.

Not to mention blindly stupid on so many levels.


Care to elaborate, or is this sufficient to communicate your smug dismissal of the plebes and their dumb pipe dreams
posted by naju at 8:18 PM on November 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


i bought 3 tickets but apparently they just print them all on one these days.

i thought it was like $10 a ticket but it was only $3 in PA (with the powerplay or something).

so that was fun.

i couldn't really think of what i'd do beyond paying off my student loans because i've been working 10-12 hour days this week so far and my brain hurts.

(i always think of any sort of large sum of money in terms of my student loans and how much would be left over after paying them - none, some, or a lot. this would have fallen under "a lot".)
posted by sio42 at 8:21 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I waste most of my lottery-buying money putting it into a retirement fund I happen to have. I'm expecting to win that sucker in a few years BIG time. And my odds are pretty good.
posted by Peach at 8:26 PM on November 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


This is offensively wasteful on so many levels.

I don't care too much personally, but I agree with the point that the lottery is probably more bad than good. In Oregon it's been noted that something like 90% of revenue comes from less than 10% of players who are mostly below average income, below average education, likely to be on public assistance of some sort, losing more than $500/year between Powerball, Mega Millions, scratch-offs and video poker. The lottery represents hope for them, but as any game where you're gambling against the house: the house always wins.

The odds of winning the Powerball are ridiculously low. ~1 in 175,000,000. You are more likely to be bitten by a snake, struck by lightning (IIRC, the odds of getting struck twice weren't terribly far off), etc. The actual payout of the lottery is only 50%. The worst slot machines at least have the decency of paying out 75%.

That being said, I bought a few tickets. I lost.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:27 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is offensively wasteful on so many levels.

A buck a week isn't much to spend on a few minutes of daydreaming and a few seconds of excitement. I do kind of wish so many people didn't use it as their only "investment" though.

I laughed when I bought a ticket tonight. I never play unless it's in the news like this but I asked the guy at the store and he said it's usually around 12 million anyway, which is really enough to set anyone with even a shred of financial knowledge up for life.
posted by bondcliff at 8:30 PM on November 28, 2012




I bought a ticket for two dollars and I matched the Powerball number which means I won four dollars WOO-HOO 100% RETURN ON INVESTMENT IMMA BUY ME SOME LINDOR TRUFFLES
posted by tzikeh at 8:32 PM on November 28, 2012 [18 favorites]


If I played and was the sole winner, I would seriously consider going to the moon.

Or starting the island nation of Brandonistan.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:33 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the plus side we now know the Academy Awards are random.

You have to admit, it sure does explain Crash.
posted by mightygodking at 8:33 PM on November 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


I can't understand buying more than one ticket, but I most certainly buy one, because a nonzero chance of being suddenly rich is infinitely better odds than zero. That nonzero chance is a comfort sometimes.
posted by darksasami at 8:33 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


To all those people who like to buy the lottery ticket in order to daydream and have a little flight of fancy: YOU DON'T NEED TO BUY A TICKET FOR THAT! YOU CAN DO IT FOR FREE ALL DAY LONG. I SURE DO.
posted by vidur at 8:37 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


i couldn't really think of what i'd do beyond paying off my student loans because i've been working 10-12 hour days this week so far and my brain hurts.

(i always think of any sort of large sum of money in terms of my student loans and how much would be left over after paying them - none, some, or a lot. this would have fallen under "a lot".)


This is how I am, too. If I won the lottery, I'd pay off my student loans, my brother's student loans, my dad's mortgage, and whatever car payments remain outstanding. Somehow, I would do all this without alerting anyone to the windfall.

After that - Maybe I'd rent a place in Boston? Buy a whole closet of three-piece suits? I dunno.

But I haven't bought a lottery ticket, so it doesn't much matter.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:41 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


That "not so frequently asked questions" link is pure comedy gold.
posted by slogger at 8:43 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


This was the first time I ever bought a lottery ticket. I don't imagine I'll buy another anytime soon--but half a billion dollars is like, well, why not spend two bucks on something that ridiculous?
posted by tzikeh at 8:46 PM on November 28, 2012


That "not so frequently asked questions" link is pure comedy gold.

Seriously. I need to find the guy who writes this and marry him:
FROM STEWART N: What do you think about the number 19?

I like it. An odd mix of the smallest number and the largest - together in one package. It speaks to the extremes of the Universe and yet shows how they can be inexorably tied.

It is also unique in that both numbers are formed by a single constant line (using standard type). One line straight; the other curving before coming down to the base line - not so distant cousins - and neither one having a family relation with any other number. The "4" has mutliple stops and abrupt changes in directions with its multiple line formation and the "2", "3", "5", and "7" have their sudden starts and stops.

Although a mere number, as humans, we can't but help to tie it to other numbers by which we judge ourselves. As an age number it is greatly important; the first step from being a "teenager" to becoming a "young adult". In fact, the shapes of the numbers suggest a relationship between youth and age - the straight erect youth next to the bent and wizened old-timer standing together - as if sharing the secrets of life (though "1" will certainly not listen).

I would have to put "19" up there as a major number; a number among numbers. Yes, I definitely like "19".
posted by lalex at 8:48 PM on November 28, 2012 [15 favorites]


vidur writes " YOU DON'T NEED TO BUY A TICKET FOR THAT! YOU CAN DO IT FOR FREE ALL DAY LONG. I SURE DO."

For many it isn't the same thing. It sure isn't for me. Having a buck (I play the 6/49 here when the pay back exceeds the odds of winning (because of carry over)) at stake that turns the hypothetical into the real makes it much more interesting for some reason. Probably because humans are bad at large numbers.

I also tend to by a ticket at the onset of long road trips when I get gas. Figuring out how to manage and distribute the winnings is worth hours boredom mitigation. But Jesus a half a billion is beyond spending. Heck a 2% return would be essentially beyond spending for me. I'm incapable of dreaming big enough to spend 10 million a year.
posted by Mitheral at 8:54 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


The lottery is a fascinating thing, because people say that it's simple probability that means you are likely to lose, but it's a lot more complicated.

To start with, there are progressive jackpots. If nobody wins the jackpot in week 1, then the jackpot money rolls over, and week 2 there's a double-sized jackpot. Clearly, your expected value is higher in the second situation, since the odds of winning are the same, but the prize has gone up. If a lottery costs $1 and has a 1 in 100 million chance of winning, then if the jackpot is $200 million, the expected value is positive. In fact, most lotteries have guaranteed prizes (e.g. getting 3 of 6 returns $5); as a rule of thumb on the few I've looked at, it's about 25 cents on the dollar to the small guaranteed prizes, 25 cents to the jackpot and 50 cents to the lottery. So if that 1 in 100M lottery pays out $75M, it's still a wash.

This sounds awesome, but there's a big catch. The Powerball jackpot is massive, so it's in the media. And people who wouldn't normally play the lottery hear about it, and buy more tickets. (And regulars increase their ticket purchases). So what? If there are multiple winners, then the jackpot is split. So if we have that $1, 1-in-100M lottery, where 25 cents is in the small prizes, then a $100M jackpot that is net positive on paper isn't so if 200 million tickets are sold, and the odds of splitting the jackpot are higher -- on average, there will be 2 winning tickets, giving an expected win of $50M, and a net negative value.

I used some Canadian data a few years back, with the 6/49 lottery (as in pick 6 of 49 balls - not a full-on Powerball thing, but still the big money national lottery up here). It was remarkable. The basic lottery returned about 50%; if the jackpot rolled over, an additional number of people bought, and the return was around 60%. If it rolled over another time, the return was about 65%. Another? About 65%. Another? About 65%. The interest in larger jackpots was such that the increase in prize value was arbitraged out of the system entirely. It's one of the most interesting phenomena I've ever seen in data; the crowd was screwing themselves over in unison.

But there are still opportunities here; many people pick their numbers, and all combinations are equally likely to turn up, so you could pick numbers that are less likely to be picked; avoiding 1-31 would keep you clear of months and days; 8 is fortunate in some cultures and may be over picked, and so on. The odds of 33-34-35-36-38-39 are no less likely than any other combination, but nobody playing a date will pick this, and few people will deliberately pick a run of six numbers, but those who do will not skip one. And the number that they skip won't be the most popular random number between 1 and 100, 37. So one way you can play this is to reduce your odds of a split jackpot. Unfortunately, I'd guess that most people playing (especially megajackpots) use the computer to pick a random set of numbers.

The other opportunity is to take advantage of the diminishing marginal return of money. If I won $200K, it would be nice, but not necessarily life-changing. If I won $2M, I could quit my job and live a life of leisure. If I won $20M, I suppose my life of leisure could be more... leisurely? If I won $200M, I'm sure I could find ways of spending it, but I'd be stretching. If you can assemble a trustworthy syndicate of people, you could get higher utility out of buying 250 tickets and getting 250x the chance of winning $2M. The expected return in cold money would be the same, but your personal utility would be higher. It's hard to define the exact utility (and also the increased risk of a large syndicate causing legal problems), but in theory with a large enough jackpot, a large syndicate playing unpopular numbers could have a positive net expected value in utility terms, if not in money terms.

Of course, the ultimate in return is what I do; if you buy one single ticket, you can fantasize about all the wealth and what you will do with it. So I buy no tickets, and fantasize about finding the winning ticket and the wealth, etc. The odds of winning the Powerball are not appreciably greater than the odds of finding the winning Powerball ticket on the street, but the cost is so much less.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:56 PM on November 28, 2012 [32 favorites]


But Jesus a half a billion is beyond spending. Heck a 2% return would be essentially beyond spending for me. I'm incapable of dreaming big enough to spend 10 million a year.

If you're having a hard time thinking of what to spend that money on, Louis CK may have some ideas.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:59 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


For the past few years I've stuck to a simple rule: I buy a lottery ticket for every book I finish. I get $2 of enjoyment dreaming impossible dreams from each ticket, and the once-a-book pace is slow enough that I don't spend much over the course of a year.

(But since I just finished A Dance of Dragons and the lottery is up to $500 million, I decided buying two was reasonable.)

(I lost.)
posted by ztdavis at 9:07 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I too did not win. However, earlier today, I thought, "Man, wouldn't it be cool if I won the lottery? Or maybe got some totally awesome magic powers; that would be cool too. I'm probably going to win the lottery or get some totally awesome magic powers."

So now I'm pretty psyched about my upcoming totally awesome magic powers.
posted by Flunkie at 9:09 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Powerball Simulator
Games played: 1,038 (2 tickets each week for 10.0 years)
Spent	Won	Profit / Loss	Return on $
$2,076	$123	$-1,953		$0.06
Incredibly Depressing Mega Millions Lottery Simulator!
You played 1040 games of Mega Millions. It cost $1040. You won $62.
I did play my numbers, i.e. birthdays and anniversary, which I will do if the jackpot is big enough to be on the news.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:18 PM on November 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


For example, apparently in Michigan, lottery sales raised 770 million dollars for Michigan education in this year alone.

Lotteries are regressive taxes; it would be far better and more productive for society if the highest earners were taxed that $770M.
posted by maxwelton at 9:40 PM on November 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


There's a gas/conveinence store chain in SE MO that doesn't sell lottery tickets. I really like that.
posted by wrapper at 9:40 PM on November 28, 2012


I WON I WON I WON I WON OMIGOD I FUCKIN WON ALL YOU PEOPLE CAN JUST FUCKIN PISS OFF I WON I WON I FUCKING

Oh wait - no, I didn't.

Shoot.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:42 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I read an article that said you were three times more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than to win the Powerball Lottery. This seemed really unfair to me, because I live in an area with no coconut trees, so my chance of being killed by a falling coconut is already very low.

So I bought a ticket and a whole bunch of coconuts and placed the coconuts on the top of my bookshelves and other places where they could have a chance of falling, just so I could increase my odds of winning Powerball. But I still didn't win.

And now I have three dozen coconuts for no reason.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:45 PM on November 28, 2012 [30 favorites]


i also did not win, which is a good thing for the planet because my fleet of internal combustion vehicles would have been INCREDIBLE. i mean, i know, i'm only one person so i can't use them all at once but i would have been rich enough to TRY
posted by ninjew at 10:18 PM on November 28, 2012


So I bought a ticket and a whole bunch of coconuts and placed the coconuts on the top of my bookshelves and other places where they could have a chance of falling, just so I could increase my odds of winning Powerball. But I still didn't win.

You can't die if you don't play.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:33 PM on November 28, 2012


It doesn't bother me that I didn't win the lottery, it bothers me that I wasn't even close. None of my numbers matched the winning numbers. I expect a call any day from the Lottery Commission telling me that I lost so badly that I now owe them money.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:39 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I could spend it. I could SO spend it.

I could blow the whole lot on my personal, sweat-forming, gut wrenching, hand-trembling, damaging addiction. The sin of my race, the death of my father and the downfall of my family ...

Land.
Lots of land.

Hoo boy!
posted by Catch at 10:43 PM on November 28, 2012


I won $3. I will likely use it to buy another ticket.

So you're telling me there's a chance! Yeah!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:43 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are the odds of finding a winning Powerball ticket appreciably worse than the odds of purchasing a winning Powerball ticket?
posted by mazola at 10:43 PM on November 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Somehow, I would do all this without alerting anyone to the windfall
And..this is why winning the lottery scares me. Everyone will know. People tend to be a little bit optimistic about human nature when a fuck-ton of cash is involved. The press? They'll be gone in a week. Just wait for the phone calls and door bell ringing from "financial consultants" and various people who "slipped and fell" on your front walk to beat down your door. Your first step is to find a reputable lawyer, accountant and, potentially, some hired security.
posted by smidgen at 11:05 PM on November 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


ha, i hit the powerball number, too, so I won $4. But I also bought two tickets, so spent $4. So, I offer to buy a round of drinks--tapwater for all!
posted by etaoin at 11:13 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


smidgen: "Your first step is to find a reputable lawyer, accountant and, potentially, some hired security."

The security part would totally drive me into full blown paranoia. I think I'd end up blowing all the cash on the costs needed to maintain security that would rival the US Secret Service. Being broke isn't all bad.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:14 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


The worst part of imagining what would happen if you won hundreds of millions in the lottery is thinking about how it would negatively impact your life. I mean, you've got that ticket, you're waiting for the winning numbers, and you've already gone through all your thoughts about how you're going spend your jackpot. But then, as the drawing draws close, you have second thoughts. "My friends will now only see me for my money. My children will become spoiled. What if they try to kidnap me for ransom?"

Only moments before you were enjoying those thoughts about buying a hot tub and buying a yacht and maybe buying a yacht that has a hot tub. And now, you are already having winner's remorse, worrying about how this money you haven't won yet is going to destroy your life.

I saw a report that said that only 50% of the winners of really big lotteries said that it improved their lives.

Still... 50%... I like those odds.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:18 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Eh. I like Powerball and the lottery in general because I use the slips as bookmarks. So even if I don't win anything, they're still of use for me.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:22 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


YOU DON'T NEED TO BUY A TICKET FOR THAT! YOU CAN DO IT FOR FREE ALL DAY LONG. I SURE DO.

It's not the same if there's no skin in the game.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:01 AM on November 29, 2012


Another year my old university will not be getting an endowed women's studies chair in honor of Barbara Cartland.
posted by jadepearl at 1:03 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


This one time I was eating a "99c steak breakfast" at the Onslow in Reno. My friend and I filled out a keno ticket but could not attract a runner, despite calling out for nearby ones. Yep, it hit. 2 grand winnings down the tubes. We could not resist playing keno in the same place all night and that's how I learned that lightning doesn't strike twice.
posted by telstar at 1:06 AM on November 29, 2012


If you can assemble a trustworthy syndicate of people, you could get higher utility out of buying 250 tickets and getting 250x the chance of winning $2M.

This doesn't improve your chances of winning.
posted by dave78981 at 2:19 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


All this general talk of lotteries is interesting, but it doesn't hold a candle to the linked FAQs and letters. Seriously, even if you're only in this thread to chat about lotteries, give the links a try, they're worth it.
posted by Bugbread at 2:28 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


YOU DON'T NEED TO BUY A TICKET FOR THAT! YOU CAN DO IT FOR FREE ALL DAY LONG. I SURE DO.

It's not the same if there's no skin in the game.


Um, yes it is.

At ~1 in 175,000,000 odds, the following events are more likely to happen to you than winning the lottery, without the investment of a single dollar, dime or penny.

-A biotech stock inherited from a relative releases a wonderdrug. Payout: 100K - 1M
-A painting discovered in an estate sale is a long-lost masterpiece. Payout: 10K -100K.
-A personal injury litigation after an accident results in a goldmine: Payout: 100K - 10M.
-You discover a secret cache of 99% pure, Heisenberg grade methamphetamine: Payout 10K -100K.
-A mobster gifts you with money in return for silence on a witnessed crime: Payout: 10K -100K.
-An IRS error results in a large refund: Payout: 1K - 10K.
-You discover a wallet containing a substantial sum of money on the street: Payout: 100 dollars - 1K.

None of these events result in a return of half a billion, of course. But in terms of raw odds, they are more likely to occur than winning a ~1 in 175,000,000 odds lottery.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:14 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the one hand, winning that 200 million or so (after taxes) would be amazing. You could have a lot of fun giving most of it away and still have plenty left to live a satisfying life.

On the other hand, the idea to just buy a 747, redo the interior in dorm like apartments, pick a few friends and then travel the world sampling every vice know to humanity would be tempting.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:22 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK... let's do a quick calculation.

The odds of winning Powerball are one in 175,000,000. If you had 175,000,000 different tickets you could be certain you would win (though you might have to split the prize.) So what does 175,000,000 tickets look like?

Let's assume that each ticket only has one set of numbers and each ticket is printed on a piece of paper that matches one of the common paper thicknesses. Let's just say the thickness is 0.1 mm (that's one tenth of a millimeter, or, in scientific notation, 1 x 10-4 meters.)

If we stack 175,000,000 tickets (1.75 x 108) of that thickness, the total height will be
  1.75 x 108 x 1 x 10-4 = 1.75 x 104 meters,
which is about 10.9 miles. That's roughly twice the height of Mount Everest.

So that's what you're doing when you buy one of these lottery tickets in the hope of winning the jackpot. You're walking up to a stack of paper twice the height of Mount Everest and trying to pick out just that one special sheet of paper.

On the other hand, two people just won this latest lottery. Why didn't you?
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:43 AM on November 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


The tax is on desperation. The truly sad thing is that, miserable as the odds are, for some people it is the best chance they have. Oh, and @twoleftfeet, nice imagery.
posted by epo at 3:52 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not the same if there's no skin in the game.

Um, yes it is.


I can only speak for myself, but I find the idea that people can't comprehend the enormity of extremes of probability somewhat patronising, notwithstanding that the odds of winning anything on Powerball are 31:1. For me the act itself of playing the lottery is fun and can't be replicated just be simulating it or pretending you've bought a ticket. The process of choosing the numbers, the conversations about how you'd share, the ritual of checking the numbers.

I've heard the argument in various forms for years that it is a stupidity tax, a desperation tax etc and for me this is a category error. It's not an investment plan, nor meant to be one. Of course it is more prudent and logical to save the cash, but entertainment isn't always what is prudent or logical. For me, and perhaps others, a small flutter is in the same category as buying a chocolate bar or a pint of beer: fun and a bit of escape when bought in moderation.

Like any form of gambling there are problem behaviours and I'm entirely open to the idea of stricter regulation, monitoring, ethical marketing and so on. But I do think it is inherently patronising to take the default position that people who play lotteries with improbable chances of winning are necessarily illogical, stupid or both.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:49 AM on November 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


Unfortunately, I'd guess that most people playing (especially megajackpots) use the computer to pick a random set of numbers.

The strongest argument I've heard against picking your own numbers -- how depressing it'd be that day when you don't bother playing, but your numbers come up? And that's why, as a very infrequent player, I just let the computer choose mine.

Of course, I didn't win; stupid computers.
posted by inigo2 at 5:36 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


You should try playing Suicide Lottery. Pick your numbers, but don't buy a ticket, then watch the draw. Imagine if you got it right!

I've never bought a lottery ticket because as a kid I liked to snark about the "stupid tax", but I might start. I think a straight expected return calculation on a prize as large as the lottery is missing a lot, regardless of whatever entertainment you might get out of it. $1 000 000 right now is worth a lot more than $50 a day for the rest of your life, just given what you can do with a lump sum like that.
posted by lucidium at 6:15 AM on November 29, 2012


I like to imagine how I would use the winnings to crush all the dreams and joy of people I dislike. So it's probably good I never win.

It's hard luck on the local baroque festival, though, missing out on an enormous endowment.
posted by winna at 6:22 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another of many terrible things about the lottery is that while the proceeds generally go toward education, it's just used to justify other education cuts. It's not like schools are getting tons of tax money, plus this lottery windfall. No, the schools are now just leaning heavily on lottery income, while tax revenue is cut.

So, in a relatively direct way, the lottery is the wealthy preying on the hopes of the poor. Like usual.
posted by explosion at 6:22 AM on November 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Anyone who claims these programs benefit education has never actually watched their state budgeting process. Money is the ultimate fungible good: if you take in $500M from the lottery, you "mark" that for education... then take $500M out of the education budget that came from general funds. Net gain to your education program: zero. Come look at Virginia's budget and tell me how well the Department of Education has done from the lottery. Maryland is set up to do the same thing this year. There may be exceptional states in this matter, but I've certainly never seen one in a decade of looking.

It's a shell game.
posted by introp at 7:00 AM on November 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would actually argue that it would take a surprisingly small amount of money to "change your life." I'm not talking about finding a quarter and that subtly changes the course of your day. I'm saying that winning $250k is no small sum. Sure it's no $250M, but for many people, $250k after tax would wipe out a significant portion of debt. What would your life look like now if ~$1000 - $2000 of your monthly income was not going toward a mortgage, car payment, student loan, etc?

Sure you would still have to work, but the release from that fixed cost is hardly insubstantial.
posted by ChipT at 7:14 AM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


ChipT, you've pinpointed the reason why I did buy a ticket. Sure, it was a long shot to win the jackpot, but shit, I'd have been happy with just a $10,000 prize, or even just $5K or 1K. The odds for the runners-up are better, and that'd make a significant difference even though it's not "the jackpot."

I didn't win, though. Sigh.

....I do actually know some actual, genuine, honest-to-god lottery winners - family friends and neighbors when I was a kid, who won the Connecticut Lotto when I was 19. (I actually was there when they won - I was the "company" they mention in that article.) They actually kept their heads about it - no weird spending splurges, no family breakdown; they did really down-to-earth things with the money like making sure their kids both went to college, re-training for the jobs they really wanted to do, and a couple of fundraisers for the local Little League.

Sure, they also got a second house and a couple tickets to the Barcelona Olympics; but by far the absolute coolest thing they did was: one of the grandparents was from Poland and emigrated to the US after World War II, and had a brother back in Poland he hadn't seen since 1947. So they flew the whole family over to Poland so Grandpa could see his brother again one last time.

So I actually have, like, role models for how to conduct myself if I ever win a lottery.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:25 AM on November 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


The lucky numbers are 5, 16, 22, 23 and 29. The Powerball number was 6.

Hmm, these could be a lot of people's kids' and grandkids' ages. I bet (and hope, given the prize) there'll be more than one winner.
posted by jamesonandwater at 8:42 AM on November 29, 2012


ObSF: Teela Brown
posted by Chrysostom at 8:43 AM on November 29, 2012


I bet (and hope, given the prize) there'll be more than one winner.

There are two. One in Missouri, one in Arizona.
posted by inigo2 at 8:43 AM on November 29, 2012


That lottery ticket that young woman sold me?
WORTHLESS!
There will be some strong words exchanged down at the Triangle Market this afternoon, believe you me....
posted by Floydd at 8:54 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I bought a ticket and asked those of my friends who did not purchase to send me their well-wishes for a win. They didn't wish hard enough, and now I'm thinking of suing. I may have hit the jackpot after all!
posted by owtytrof at 10:08 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


California doesn't do the Powerball. Another year in which I don't buy up the old Valiant Comics IP and get Christopher Priest to finish Quantum and Woody.
posted by Zed at 10:24 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd be able to take the comments about not understanding the odds a lot more seriously if I didn't know the people who were lecturing me were married.
posted by srboisvert at 10:29 AM on November 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Playing the lottery is not stupid in itself. Not is it the least wasteful. It is a bit of fun with a trivial amount of money. Sure the chances are far less than slim but it is for fun and someone does win. Instead of buying a bag of chips, you take a chance.

Now, taking a $1 worth of coffee, slapping a starbucks logo on it and buying it for $7, that would be stupid and wasteful.
posted by 2manyusernames at 2:28 PM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Instead of buying a bag of chips, you take a chance.

Arguably, my chances of becoming rich as a result of buying the chips are indistinguishable from my chances of becoming rich as a result of buying a Powerball ticket. But the Powerball ticket is much less likely to make me fat!
posted by nickmark at 2:41 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now, taking a $1 worth of coffee, slapping a starbucks logo on it and buying it for $7, that would be stupid and wasteful.

I thought this was an exaggeration until looking at the news today.
posted by grouse at 4:43 PM on November 29, 2012


I don't think it is stupid. I buy an occasional ticket to spice up my daydreams with a little tiny sprinkle

I was always disdainful of ticket buyers (well still am and somewhat embarrassed when I do buy one) but during one of the previous record breaking jackpots I broke down caving to peer pressure and shelled out the buck. Wow that time the daydreams were in technicolor, just incredible fun. Best entertainment value ever. But it's never been quite the same. And the doubling of the ticket price pretty much confirms the scamminess of the system.
posted by sammyo at 5:08 PM on November 30, 2012


Is it possible to improve your chances of winning big in the National Lottery?
Until then, to play the opponent it would be best to choose the numbers which are indicated as being unpopular (those with smaller columns in the graphic), to minimise the chance of another player having the same numbers.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:49 AM on December 13, 2012


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