Thursday, January 14, 2016

Powerball isn't trying to make you happy


     Sometimes, the simplest question will help bring clarity. I wrote a column Monday celebrating the simply joy of blowing two bucks on Powerball. Then Rosemarie, a regular reader, asked this:
I enjoyed your "Surrendering to Powerball" column and will put to you a question that has long baffled me: Instead of making it more difficult to win — as they have recently done — by giving only one person (or two) a $5 million or $18 million Powerball (or Lotto or ...) prize, why not give $1 million or $6 million to 100 or 500 individuals? It would seem to invite more participants and therefore more revenue from the multiplied interested by doing this. 
A fair question. I thought about it, and answered:
The reason, I imagine, is that bigger pots draw in more players, which draws in more money. The purpose of these lotteries is not to benefit the winners — were that the case, you're right, it would make more sense to give away a thousand million dollar prizes. The purpose is to squeeze more money out of the public. Hence the one billion dollar prize.
     Evidence of the utter irrationality of humans. Because winning $1.6 billion, while no doubt an occasion for joy for the several people who won it Wednesday night, would no doubt have tremendous stresses as well, as a few regular schlebs sudden find themselves in charge of vast fortunes. It could be argued that winning a much smaller sum — say $200,000 — would provide all the bill-killing benefits, with none of the who-should-run-my-foundation? headaches, and do for hundreds if not thousands of people.
     Which means, were people thinking clearly, they'd flock to put their money down trying to win something like the Lucky Day Lotto run by the Illinois lottery, whose odds of winning a $200,000 payout are one in 1.2 million, and avoid Powerball with its 1 in 292 million odds that 44 states working in concert can't seem to win more than once every few months.
     But they're not thinking clearly, are they? They're dreaming. And while I stand by my earlier epiphany that it can be fun to snap up a ticket now and then, that doesn't change the greater truth: the purpose of Powerball is to take your money, not give money to you.

     

16 comments:

  1. I wonder if any poker players buy lottery tickets. Anybody who had the least inkling of how odds work, wouldn't waste even $2 on the infinitesimal chance of winning the super lottery. Some sort of warning similar to that on cigarette packages should be required. I suggest, "If you buy a million tickets, the chance of your winning would be no better than 100 to 1.

    john

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  2. How about a new topic like what is Neil's opinion about the State of the Union address from Tuesday?

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    1. I don't have one. I got up early, worked all day, and fell asleep in front of the TV shortly after it began. That's my opinion.

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  3. I've often had the same thought as Rosemarie, wondering why they don't spread the huge winnings among more players, naming it "Multiple Millionaires Powerball Week" or some such thing.

    SandyK

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  4. Yes. Thinking clearly is clearly not part of the deal. If it were, more people would look to Seneca, who was often acute on such matters, for guidance: "It is not the man who has little but the one who craves more who is poor."

    Tom Evans

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    1. With all due respect to Seneca, men who have little, and there are many, are indeed poor. Regarding the quote, as our host would say...pretty to think so.

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    2. Can't argue with that. But then, for a man who has little two dollars, for most of us a pittance, is a sum better not wasted on a lottery ticket. You and Seneca are both right. In different ways.

      TE

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  5. Playing the multimillion dollar Powerball game is like hoping you'll meet Prince Charming from the fairy tales we read as children. Alas, I'm not Cinderella and it's back to the daily slog. It's just fantasy, but fun to pretend fairy tales may come true.

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  6. For me the most annoying part of lottery marketing is when they toss a few bucks at a veterans' charity or some such thing, thereby giving ticket buyers an illusory layer of altruism to spread atop their greed. Just give the money directly to charity. The tax break, even if it comes to pennies, will be more valuable than the ticket.

    Bitter Scribe

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  7. Neil- tell us about the photoI I like it! It looks like light is glowing from inside a mountain of gems!

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    1. Or a glistening pile of cellophane-wrapped hard candy?

      SandyK

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    2. Exactly, even though its true meaning is very different. This is in the Art Institute: Felix Gonzalez-Torres' 1991
      "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.). It's 175 pounds of candy, the weight of his lover when he died of AIDS. Museum goers are invited to take a candy, and they are replenished. I used it because, as you mention, it resembles gems, wealth, but in a cartoony way, and I figured not too many people would know its true meaning.

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    3. I like the photo AND the background story! Thank you!

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  8. You're right it did make me happy at all, and I spent much more than 2 bucks playing online, Icelotto review. The trill cost me 50 dollars.

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  9. As a component of playing the lottery on the web, you can likewise subscribe or sort out a syndicate or lottery clubs. You can begin playing it by entering your numbers in the online play slip and opening your lottery account. For included security, these locales as a rule plays out a credit check. The record you made will enable you to play chose online lottery and Instant win diversions. buy mega millions tickets

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  10. Lottery online is fascinating just when you have your reasoning top on and your mind is given something to do. For example when playing on the web lottery the whole of numbers go between the numbers 121 and 186 when the round of lottery includes six numbers. buying bulk lottery tickets

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