People are going gaga this week over the Mega Millions lottery jackpot passing $500 million. Millions of people are buying millions of dollars of tickets, which of course drives up the jackpot farther. Too bad this is all a celebration in irrationality.
You’ve a better chance of getting two holes-in-one in one round of golf, a near impossibility, than of winning the jackpot.
You’ve a better chance of being eaten by sharks in Ohio than of winning the lottery.
I call it a celebration of irrationality because people suspend reason in order to participate. Nothing about lotteries make sense; yet millions still buy tickets.
You have no ability to influence the outcome. You put your money in the pot and make a vain wish. The odds are all against you; except for a few token winners, only the lottery owners –the “House”—(state governments) win big. Think about it. If Mega Millions is giving away a huge chunk of $500M as a prize, think how much MM had to take in to make this happen.
A lot of people have to lose for one person to win, which is one reason I wrote my own book on the subject a few years back.
Many, and I do mean many, though the evidence is anecdotal rather than empirical, lottery winners later face social, personal, and financial problems, even bankruptcies. Why? People don’t know how to handle a lot of money. People you’ve forgotten come and beg you for money. Winners spend like there’s no tomorrow, but there is a tomorrow. Some winners have said winning the lottery was the worst thing that ever happened to them. Makes you think, or it should.
I tell people, “If you have to gamble (and I’m not for it), than at least don’t gamble in the lotteries. They’re the worst odds out there. Go gamble in a casino where you have at least a little (though not much) better odds of winning something.”
Lotteries are a state legislator’s dream—they’re a way to tax those least able to afford it without calling the revenue source a tax. What’s better, it’s a so-called “voluntary tax.” People participate, which is to say they give their money to the government, of their own free will. From a legislator’s perspective, what’s not to like? But who loses? The Public. You do.
Lotteries, even Mega Million lotteries with enormous jackpots, are ultimately a losing proposition. They’re bad politics and bad economics. Certainly, they’re a bad bet.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012
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