As is often the case, the news media fills their slow news days with the ever popular coverage of people lined up to purchase lottery tickets. Apparently the Republican “takeover” of the House is now old news and eyes are glazing over regarding the pending repeal of ObamaCare.
Oddly, when a lottery like the Mega-Millions has accumulated a huge jackpot, people mistakenly begin to believe that the odds are tipping in their favor… somewhat like the belief that a slot machine that hasn’t paid out is a while is just straining to burst from pent up... odds, I guess?
As a result, thinking their dream of untold riches is close at hand, they line up to purchase lottery tickets… or as I like to term it; to pay their “Stupidity Tax”. Sadly, the demographics reveal that those in society who have the least amount of disposable income tend to purchase lottery tickets. The subtle disclosure on the Oregon Lottery ads even states: “For entertainment only, not for investment purposes”.
The truth is that most people have no sense of actually how astronomical their chances of winning the mega-jackpot are. A brief comparative look at the odds of various potential events is in order:
Being killed in a car crash: .......... 1 in 5,000
Being killed by poisoning: ............ 1 in 86,000
Being killed by a dog: ................ 1 in 700,000
Dying while in the bath tub: .......... 1 in 1,000,000
Being killed by freezing: ............. 1 in 3,000,000
Being killed by lightening: ........... 1 in 2,000,000
Being killed in a tornado: ............ 1 in 2,000,000
Being killed by falling out of bed: ... 1 in 2,000,000
Being killed in a plane crash: ........ 1 in 25,000,000
Winning the Mega-Millions Lottery: .... 1 in 176,000,000
Being killed by space debris: ......... 1 in 5,000,000,000
Some would argue that the odds are zero if you don’t buy a lottery ticket at all. And they would be correct. But once you decide to part with that cash; really, how strong is your potential return on that “investment”?
Some critics of government lotteries state that it exploits those who can least afford it. Yet the Stupidity Tax is also a voluntary one. I personally am not a strong anti-tax adversary, but I do freely exercise my choice to not pay this particular tax.
Still occasionally there are winners. Two ticket purchasers recently won $380 million. Hopefully the winners won’t be killed in a car crash on their way to the bank. Frankly, the odds aren't very good.