Everyone’s talking about the Powerball. And why not? We all peed our pants when it hit the $500mil+ range. Now it’s set to double that.
Like, a WEEK later.
Where does this money come from? Oh, right. TICKET SALES.
What drives ticket sales up? HAVING A GIANT JACKPOT.
What’s bigger than the jackpot? THE ODDS AGAINST YOU WINNING.
I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. The adage that “the lottery is just a tax on people who are bad at math” has its basis in reality. MoneyMiniBlog’s article entitled 24 Things That Are More Likely to Happen Than Winning the Lottery lays out that the odds of winning either the Powerball or MegaMillions is about 1 in 176,000,000. The next most likely thing to happen is, Survey Says…
That’s right. You’re more likely to be killed by a vending machine than you are to win the Powerball. And that’s during a regular playing period, not one with a billion dollar jackpot.
I’m willing to bet that most people don’t walk around in constant terror of being killed by a vending machine (because everyone knows it’s the ice machines you really have to watch out for)…
…but it’s more likely to happen than winning the lottery.
That people continue to play the lottery doesn’t amaze me. We’re people. We’re always ready to receive something for nothing, no matter how long of a shot it may be. In one sense, it shows the hope people have that even against mathematically astronomical odds, things might work out well for them. But to be honest, the lottery really pisses me off.
Who runs the lottery? The state. Where do the proceeds from the lottery go? To the state. Maybe it’s designated to go to education, or parks & rec, or one of other innumerable projects. What typically happens, according to a 2001 report by ABC News, is that the funds simply allow the slashing of those projects’ original budgets, the funds from which the government can allocate somewhere else.
What’s odd to me about this is that some people that play the lottery wouldn’t want to pay higher taxes in order to provide more money to the government for anything, be it education, roads, or welfare (the corporate variety is okay, just not actual people who might need it to survive, because it’s far more likely that they’re abusing the system and will leech off my money that I worked hard for and go get a job you bum illegal TRUMPTRUMPTRUMPTRUMPTRUMP), but will gladly fork over their hard-earned dollar for the chance to be the one receiving money for doing nothing.
Whether you play the lottery or not, whether you believe in welfare or not, whether you’re still reading this or not; don’t you see anything wrong with the fact that the U.S. has issues with supporting its poor, its hungry, its homeless, and sometimes even its veterans, but we have a game of chance with a jackpot nearing or surpassing A BILLION DOLLARS that comes directly from the pockets of United States citizens?
Then again, when was the last time the USA was the best at math?
One thought on “May The Odds Be Never In Your Favor”
Perhaps it was uncharitable of me, but when I was younger and worked at a Minit Mart here in BG, I tended to refer to the lottery as the “Kentucky Voluntary Poor Tax.” And it did make me mad. Even if we assumed a perfect world where all the money went to education and the ed budget wasn’t slashed elsewhere, it’s a crappy way to raise income for the state. Unlike almost every other tax we have in this country, where tax rates are higher for wealthy people who can better afford it, the lottery is a tax that disproportionately affects the poor. In fact, I’d argue it’s basically engineered to siphon money from the poor – people who a) are desperate for money and b) often lack access to education that would help them understand why it’s a bad idea to spend large amounts on the lottery. I would get so furious when a family would come in to the store, buy a 24 pack of Milwaukee’s Best, use their EBT card to buy a few bags of overpriced convenience store “groceries,” and then spend 100 dollars on scratch-offs, when their kids were in torn clothes. But in hindsight, while I’m still mad at individuals that would chase a dream instead of taking care of their kids, I can’t fully blame those parents. Because at the end of the day, the state’s lottery advertising is tacitly encouraging them to do just that.