The lottery plays on a universal weakness that seems to transcend intelligence and even common sense. The reasoning goes: “Somebody has to win. Why not me?”
Here’s why not you. The odds against winning the Powerball are 1 in 175 million, and they don’t change much even if you buy a bunch of tickets. What you are buying is $2 worth of escapism — hence, the lotteries’ appeal to lower-income workers.
Last year, the American public spent $69 billion on lottery tickets — $5.9 billion on Powerball alone. Not that this will much impress anybody who isn’t 70 or older, but $69 billion was roughly the size of the entire federal budget in 1955 at the height of the Cold War.
Does that mean you should never play Powerball? Absolutely not.
When the jackpot grows to a truly interesting size, take up a collection in your office and send somebody out on his lunch hour to load up on lottery tickets. Lock the tickets in the office safe.
And enjoy your daydream.
Dale McFeatters writes for the Scripps Howard News Service.