“You’ll be lucky next time!” – Dad

I recently received a letter from my dad which included the 2 dollars Mega Millions ticket that he got here while he was visiting me, a dollar bill, and a note which told me to go cash the 1 dollar he’d won and use the two dollars to get a new ticket. “Good luck! :)” ended the note.  As I’m sure you are all wondering, no, I did not win the 20 million jackpot last Tuesday night with the new 2 dollars ticket.  So much for that new apartment I was dreaming about.

With all the stats that we’ve been introduced to, it’s always been about figuring out if there’s a pattern, a signal, in all the noise.  Even in poker or blackjack, you can count cards to have a better chance at winning.  But what about the lottery, which is supposedly truly randomized, or slot machines, which is arguable.  What is the draw of these games when the odds are so against the player?  According to Mega Millions website, the chance of winning the jackpot is just 1 in 260 million, so roughly 1.2 person would win if everyone (including the underage) in the US would buy a ticket.  Put in that perspective, it’s a ridiculously small chance.  However, maybe this is where they reel in players: the overall chance of winning any prize is only 1 in 15.  That’s sounds actually decent, until you realize that’s only 6.67 %, and most of the money prizes is quite disproportional to the chance of winning it.  I’m truly fascinated with how people are willing to cast their money for chance and their belief in “maybe this time, I’ll be lucky”.   Even some of the most dedicated players (my great-grandmother who sits out on the porch and buys a ticket every morning) test their luck day after day to no prevail.  But I supposed the idea of being that one lucky person is tempting enough.  For me, the thrill of my first lottery ticket at 18 and Tuesday’s night waiting for the winning numbers to come out was enough, guess it’s taking a hard road to millionaire-status for me (sorry dad!).

But really, I wasn’t lucky enough to even be that 1 in 15?!

Mega Millions

Mega Millions

Powerball

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One Response to “You’ll be lucky next time!” – Dad

  1. coastalsci says:

    So for years the state lotteries have been touted as this big win for state education funding (think of all the money spent to convince Massachusetts voters of that in the past election vis-a-vis the casino repeal effort) but the reality is quite different. Those who run, promote, and design the lotteries do well. Education? Not so much.

    John Oliver Explains Why Lotteries Don’t Really Help Fund Education
    The Huffington Post | By Ed Mazza Posted: 11/10/2014 5:24 am EST
    Anyone who’s ever bought a lottery ticket needs to see John Oliver’s explanation of how it all works. First, there are the remote odds of winning, described on “Last Week Tonight” as akin to being struck by lightning while being eaten by a shark.
    Secondly, there’s the notion that playing the lottery can help fund education, which is supposed to make lottery players feel good about spending money on the games even when they lose. But as Oliver revealed on Sunday night, the truth about where that money goes might not leave you feeling very good at all.

    Virginians duped about lottery funding, educators say
    By Elisabeth Hulette – The Virginian-Pilot – © November 26, 2011
    Anyone who has bought a Virginia lottery ticket has seen it. “Helping Virginia’s Public Schools” reads the tagline printed on the backs of tickets. The lottery’s website goes a step further, declaring: “More than $5 billion contributed to public education!” Technically, it’s true. All proceeds from the lottery do go to the state’s public schools. Just not in the way many people think. According to educators who have watched the lottery for years, much of the public believes the lottery money is extra funding, on top of what the state is required to give. They remember the lottery being pitched that way, as bonus funding, when Virginians voted on it 24 years ago.
    Instead, educators say, the state is now using all of the lottery money – about $450 million a year – to meet its own obligations to the schools. None of it reaches local coffers as extra funding.

    For Schools, Lottery Payoffs Fall Short of Promises
    New York Times: October 7, 2007 By RON STODGHILL and RON NIXON
    Last year, North Carolina’s governor, Mike Easley, finally delivered on his promise to start a lottery, making his state the most recent of the 42 states and the District of Columbia to cash in on legalized gambling.If some voters in this state frowned on Mr. Easley’s push to bring gambling here, others were persuaded by his argument that North Carolina’s students were missing out on as much as $500 million in aid annually as residents crossed the border to buy lottery tickets elsewhere….Pitches like this have become popular among lawmakers who, since states began legalizing lotteries more than 40 years ago, have sold gambling as a savior for cash-starved public schools and other government programs. …Now, a New York Times examination of lottery documents, as well as interviews with lottery administrators and analysts, finds that lotteries accounted for less than 1 percent to 5 percent of the total revenue for K-12 education last year in the states that use this money for schools.

    In reality, most of the money raised by lotteries is used simply to sustain the games themselves, including marketing, prizes and vendor commissions. And as lotteries compete for a small number of core players and try to persuade occasional customers to play more, nearly every state has increased, or is considering increasing, the size of its prizes — further shrinking the percentage of each dollar going to education and other programs.

    In some states, lottery dollars have merely replaced money for education. Also, states eager for more players are introducing games that emphasize instant gratification and more potentially addictive forms of gambling…..

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