Saturday, May 18, 2013

"I didn't win" - the $600 million lottery

The Powerball $600 million lottery just "ended" (actually, no winners have yet been confirmed, thought he winning numbers have been selected.)

I happened to be online to several news-sources, to read the comments within minutes of the winning numbers being posted.  Numerous persons commented, "I didn't win." Others commented, "I won!  I won!" - clearly they did not.  A few posted they wish they would have bought a pizza instead - and several commented that they wished the winners luck and hoped they would share the winnings.

I don't get people who "buy" into lotteries. [I've read numerous sociological or economic studies on those who do "play" so I do "get it" in some way, even while I still do not comprehend it.]

For one, the only genuine and guaranteed way in life, as shaped by years of experience worldwide, to reap any harvest or gain on any achievement is to sow & work and then reap a harvest in due time, hopefully of ample yield.   Long term, diligent, careful work, over time, can yield a result.

What is more, the math of lotteries is phenomenally and outrageously against the simple probability of winning.  Perhaps if I buy a raffle ticket from the local school, and I have a 1-in-1000 to win, it's possible I might win the raffle, but I have to remember I have a 999-in-1000 chance of not winning.

Maybe I'm in a crowd of 15,000 at the local NBA game, and they toss out 20 shirts, I have a 1-in750 chance to grab a shirt (though even that is not true - there are some seats in the arena that will never get a shirt!)  But, in this lottery a winner had a 1-in-175,000,000 chance of winning.   That means 174,999,999 people will not win!!  That's the probable number for persons who "played."  A person thinking about buying a ticket should have said to themselves, "If I buy this ticket, I am 99.999999999 guaranteed to not win!"

At current population rates - California has 38 million people and Texas 26 million people.  That means if I took 3x the population of California (every city, every town, every neighborhood, every person!) and added to that 3x the population of Texas - from all of those persons, 1 of them will win.  1! One!  Only 1!

I don't get why anyone thinks they "have a chance" in any realistic way!

Meanwhile, consider every person who paid $2.00 or $10.00 or $100.00 to buy a ticket.  The total value of tickets exceeds the $600 million given out - and I would guess total sales revenue is closer to $1 Billion for this lottery. Statistics I've read suggest that the powerball lottery alone (not the various other scratch-offs and other forms of gambling that exist) will gross over $5 billion this year.

If every person who played these games of chance would instead contribute to agencies performing acts of justice - we could give 1,000 agencies $1,000,000 each.  Or - we could give $2 million dollars to 500 agencies.   We could fund $20 million dollars to 50 agencies!


I didn't win the $600 million dollar Powerball lottery.

I didn't buy a ticket.

I wish we lived in a society willing to "play" at acts of charity and the transformative work of justice  which could transform our world - instead of "playing" on the nearly impossible chance to win a lottery.

Investment in transformative justice could yield results that would yield returns in predictable and sustainable ways to make our world better!

Toward eupan ~

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

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