I hate the Lottery.
I hate governments that cheerfully and powerfully promote this wasting of money.
I hate that governments pretend the rationale is to benefit education, as if education would not be funded through traditional taxes. Would sales drop if they said the betting covers toilet paper in public office buildings?
I hate when people throw away their pocket money on an investment that promises to pay off way better than a savings account, but is actually more likely to end up with a zero balance.
And yet, on Wednesday, I made it a point to plunk down two bucks for a shot in the almost $1.6 billion Powerball drawing.
A shot in the dark, that is.
I – and you – had a one in 292.2 million chance of hitting the jackpot for each ticket, according to the New York Times’ Daniel Victor, who provided the math (that is too complicated for anyone who hasn’t taken a Regents exam in the last five years) and put it in perspective. He wrote that if you put the names of every American (about 300 million) “in a giant bowl and selected one at random, the odds of picking President Obama are not far from the odds of winning the Powerball.”
Okay, it was on a ballot, not in a bowl. But what I heard, Victor, is there’s a chance. Yeah! Jim Carrey couldn’t have said it better – though his odds of winning the girl of his dreams were only a mere one in a million.
I could write this column for any big drawing that captures the public’s imagination and I doubt that I won’t ever have to change the lead to “I WON! I WON! I WON!” I won’t be any richer than I was the before. In fact, I’ll be another two dollars in the hole. We all know it’s a sucker bet.
So what’s the pull of Powerball?
The fun of it.
The camaraderie that comes with holding one of more than 440 million tickets tucked into people’s wallets or fastened onto their refrigerators. The fantasy of getting something really huge for practically nothing. The ridiculous optimism that the New York Lottery targets: Hey, you never know. The fun of what you’d tell your boss (20-plus years ago, in a perfunctory pre-jackpot drawing newspaper story, my then-boss had two words in mind for his boss, and they weren’t “happy birthday”).
Besides, this time people won. Wednesday’s was the 20th Powerball drawing since the last time a winner was picked, back on Nov. 4, according to Reuters. The jackpot will be shared by the holders of three winning tickets, each worth about $528.8 million.
So what if, as CNN’s Jacque Wilton Smith reported this week in an article about Powerball, “You’re more likely to die from a bee sting (one in 6.1 million), be struck by lightning (one in 3 million) or have conjoined twins (one in 200,000).” (Wonder what those last odds are if you’re past child-bearing age – or male?)
“People keep playing,” he continued, “most likely because the thought of winning is much more fun that the thought of being attacked by a shark (one in 11.5 million).”
Very true, Jacque. But I have a cousin in Montreal who years ago was attacked by a shark in Florida and survived, all limbs intact. If he could beat the odds in the ocean, why not me at the corner store?