And the Powerball Winner Is…

It wasn’t you. I knew it wouldn’t be you, or any of your 318 million fellow countrymen. But the argument you will throw back at me is one I’ve heard countless times in my life, dating all the way back to my days working at the power company.

These weren't your Powerball numbers.

These weren’t your Powerball numbers.

That went something like this: a co-worker who sat across from me always bought lottery tickets each morning (usually 3-5) when he stopped for his coffee. When he got to work, he’d scratch them off. I’d sit there and look at him and think, “fool,” and semi-regularly say, “you’re not going to win.” He’d then get all indignant and give me his best, “well, someone’s going to win” argument and it was easy to follow it with, “well it won’t be you.”

As far as I know, he’s never won anything more than a few minor payouts; certainly not any of these other national Ponzi schemes like Powerball. While I’m no longer with the power company, I still see him drive by on occasion, so I’m guessing he hasn’t won the big payout. But, I guarantee you that he purchased a bunch of Powerball tickets over the past two weeks, believing that he was going to win a billion dollars.

I admit that I have bought like three lottery tickets in my life. The last purchase was about 20 years ago when there was another similar Powerball jackpot rolling over each week, and the anticipation grew. I didn’t win, just like I knew that I wouldn’t. I haven’t played lottery or any similar games of chance, since.

Shakedown schemes like the Maine State Lottery, Powerball, and countless others are designed to separate fools from their money. Even more, it’s about fleecing the poor, who along with their booze, cigarettes, and other cheap diversions, keep playing the government’s regressive taxation game. And state governments in Maine and across the country are addicted to lottery revenues. Maine’s lottery generates $230 million annually.

The lottery’s lure is psychological and many players exhibit compulsive behavior akin individuals addicted to gambling. Then there’s the science behind the astronomical odds against winning. How badly were the odds breaking against you winning Powerball? Try one-in-292-million kind of bad.

As the Powerball winnings continued to escalate, local news outlets filled their slow news slots with countless stories of people stopping in at their local convenience stores, mom and pop groceries, or other lottery outlet. The interviewer would always pop the question (or some derivative of it), “what would you do with the money if you won?” And of course, these altruistic “saints” all said things like, “I’d build houses for all the homeless,” or, “I’d give some of it to my family member X, whose struggling to pay his bills,” and on and on it went. Sales of Powerball tickets doubled over the last week. State treasurers were smiling, all the way to the bank.

Facebook, another outlet for nonsense and gibberish, had the interwebs abuzz attempting to divide the winnings by the U.S. population with some not-so-great results. Not only are Americans not very bright in believing they’ll win the lottery, but they also suck at basic math like dividing two numbers.

I’m really pleased that there are three winners, one each in California, Tennessee, and Florida. That means I don’t have to continue hearing about the ever-growing jackpot on the news, or see any more crap about it on the Zuckerberg News Network. Apparently they’ll get to divide the loot and each one will be sitting pretty with their take of $500 million. I’m guessing that none of them will build houses for the poor and indigent, or invest their winnings in building a plant that would create 500 local jobs, or help out their sick relatives. No, they’ll buy new cars, build a gargantuan house with a Jacuzzi and all the latest perks. They’ll take on the airs of the rich and famous, and not think twice about what to do with their once-in-a-lifetime gift that could continue paying dividends long after they’re gone.

No, fools never hold onto their money for very long, whether they’re pissing it away on a scratch ticket or the Powerball, or end up with a cool half a billion.

This guy spent $1,000 on Powerball tickets and didn't win.

This guy spent $1,000 on Powerball tickets and didn’t win.

3 thoughts on “And the Powerball Winner Is…

  1. I confess, I did buy a ticket last week. Not because I’m a fool, but because it was a miniscule investment with about as much potential return as I’m getting on my “savings” at ZIRP forever. Not to get all “Ron Paul” but paper money destroys wealth and we’ve seen a giant destruction of middle class wealth in our lifetimes. Shit, middle class “wealth” isn’t even the right phrase. It used to mean maybe you could enjoy a bit of life for a brief period before you died.

    With no good place to park money in the hope of a realistic return, Powerball looks as good as any other “investment” available at this time.

  2. When I was really poor the first time, I threw a dollar or so at the state lottery every now and then. But thankfully, I have never been a gambler. It made me feel good that I could “afford” to throw away a few dollars on a long shot. This is really a psychological play, not a financial one. When I stream the NFL (without the NFL’s express consent or approval), I often get to see UK commercials, and there is an incredible one for UK Lotto “with a different game every day” to lure in the suckers. Straight out of Orwell, the psychology of the lower classes hasn’t really changed much since he lived among them.

    Julie’s right. For the paycheck-to-paycheck class, it’s as good an investment as any.

    I think it was George Will, adamant opponent of all state lotteries, who stated that lotteries are a special tax on those who didn’t pay attention in math class.

  3. Ones’ mental and physical health and that of our loved ones is the best investment. And we can all do that for one another and ourselves.

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