Lotteries: The tax on failing math class.

Just The Facts

  1. The odds of winning a Mega Millions Jackpot are 175,000,000 to one.
  2. The odds, as an American Male, of being Tom Cruise are only 150,000,000 to one.
  3. You are more likely to call heads twice, roll a six and then be struck by lightning than win a regular 6/49 lottery.

Recession Raises Lotto Sales

The recession has seen a rise in lotto sales as people streamline their financial idiocy from "paying for money they don't have" to "paying for money they'll never have." Even the Wikipedia article says that "buying a lottery ticket reduces the buyer's expected net worth," and when someone writing Wikipedia articles on lottery systems starts to call you worthless, you should probably be returned as defective by organ farmers.

Basing the economy on repayments from people whose defining property is "does not and will not have money" turned out to be a mistake. Which is why we've reverted to "taking money off stupid people." See also: "Billy the Singing Sea Bass," the fact that Carlos Mencia DVDs exist and the entire Adjective Movie franchise.

The Odds Against You

Lotto sales increase every time there's a bigger jackpot--precisely correlating with how often statisticians cry. Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries generate greater prizes by increasing the odds against winning; from the usual near-certaint 14,000,000 to one to 175,000,000 to one. In other words, you'd have a better chance of picking a Russian at random and getting Prime Minister Putin.

Big Cash Prize*

(*May not be big or cash)

Say you win a million dollars. First off, no you didn't. You've won the option for regular yearly payments that add up to a million (if you live long enough). If you insist on a lump sum then you'll get about half that. And if you insist on living in the U.S., that becomes income taxable--because in the US buying lottery tickets apparently counts as a job--meaning you get half of that half. And if you're an idiot (and by definition all lotto winners are people who think "spending money on the lottery" is a sound investment strategy) that'll be gone just about in time for you to have quit your job, pissed off everyone you know and developed an expensive habit or two your old job at the Subway won't quite cover.

Some online lotteries divide up "million-plus" prizes into $25,000 a year over 40 years, making lottery winners worse paid than a manager at McDonald's, and put a big chunk into a "balloon prize" at the very end. "BALLOON" being an acronym for "Haha, We Know That Either You Or We Will Be Gone By Then" (not a very good acronym but an excellent financial strategy).

Make Me A Millionaire

In final proof that He Who Is Satan has not only come to Earth but set up a business, California is combining reality TV and scratch cards in "Make Me A Millionaire" - a game* where contestants pay for scratch cards for the chance of winning an appearance on TV. The moment people stopped dreaming of being millionaires, and instead dreamed of maybe having the chance to be on reality TV, is recorded as the exact date hope died.

*God awful moron experience