The lottery is an interesting beast. It’s often rumored that you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than winning the lottery. That’s very true. In fact, the odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 5 million, whereas the odds of winning the lottery jackpot are a low 1 in 259 million on average for the Mega Millions jackpot in the US.
The odds of being crushed and killed by a vending machine are even higher (1 in 112 million). Since that seems pretty unlikely, why would anyone invest any amount of money in the lottery where they have virtually no chance of striking it rich?
It turns out hope is a powerful factor that can be exploited to make people feel they have a chance of bettering their lives. For people in a bad or so-so situation, it turns out that that hope is powerful. It’s the embodiment of the American dream in a way. With the average lower-income household spending $600 annually on lottery tickets in the US, it’s easy to see that it’s a force that’s here to stay. So let’s look at 12 interesting things you may not have known about lotteries.
12. People of Color Spend Far More on the Lottery
It’s a very unfortunate fact, but people of color tend to spend more on the lottery than other races. This is thought to be because people of color tend to be poorer, and the lottery is consumed far more by people of lower incomes. In fact, low income houses can spend on average $600 on the lottery each and every year in the United States. Poor people see the lottery as an outside but existing chance to escape the hand of cards in life they’ve been dealt. Of course they would try everything possible to try to win. With no money to invest in the stock market, the lottery seems to be a great alternative.
11. The World’s Richest Lottery is in Spain
The world’s richest lottery, worth more than 2 billion euros, is located in Spain. Called El Gordo, this famous lottery dates back to 1812, when the odds of winning were an unthinkable one in six. These days, it exists as a Christmas tradition with people spending around 6 euros each on average to play. Over 90% of Spaniards participate in this tradition, which in the past has funded wars. One popular tradition surrounding the yearly lottery is when the children of San Ildefonso School come together to sing the winning numbers. Also, big winners will often donate some money to the school as a tradition.
10. Money Doesn’t Always Buy Only Happiness
The saying “money leads to happiness” is often touted as a reason to seek riches, but it’s hard to find a likelier counter to that argument than lottery winners. To give a good example of this, in 2006, David Lee Edwards struck it rich. He felt so rich, he began giving out money left and right to his friends and family. The problem was that some of them wouldn’t be using that money for the benefit of their families. Several of his friends whom he gave money to over-dosed. He felt so bad, that he paid for the funerals of his friends that died in this way. If that wasn’t bad enough, it even strained his marriage and put himself on his deathbed due to excessive drug use.
9. Lottery is Often Called “A Tax On The Stupid”
The lottery is often called “a tax on the stupid” by wealthier folk as it tends to be just that. Since an abysmally small portion of lottery winners will ever win anything more than they put in, the state lotteries are actually a pretty smart way for governments to “tax” more money out of their people. Almost worse than that though, is the fact that right-wing politicians who claim to be so anti-tax are so pro-lottery because it’s not a direct tax and only targets on average the poorest of Americans. They realize that the money has to come from somewhere, but they don’t want to raise taxes and look bad. Lottery is the ultimate solution to them.
8. Sweden Has A Speed Camera Lottery
Sweden has implemented a special speed camera lottery. You know those cameras that catch you speeding and cause you to have a ticket mailed to your house? Stockholm, Sweden has lots of those, and they’re using them in a great way to deter unsafe driving. A certain amount of fines paid by speeding motorists is put into a special prize pool. People who are obeying the law will have their license plates pulled randomly from a database and be selected to win some serious cash. One “player” supposedly made $3000. Not bad for doing nothing. The idea was designed by Nickelodeon Senior Producer Kevin Richardson, who came up with it after witnessing 3 kids on bicycles struck by a car.
7. In 2005, 110 People Won The Second Prize In Powerball
A curious thing happened during a specific Powerball draw in 2005. On March 30, 110 people won the second prize in the drawing. The prize pool was a total of $19,400,000. 21 people with Power Play selections each received $500,000, with the others each receiving $100,000. This was so statistically unlikely, an investigation had to be conducted by the lottery into the winners. The situation wasn’t entirely coincidental as it turned out. The winners were all playing numbers printed on certain fortune cookies produced by Wonton Food Inc. in New York. The numbers were only off by the Powerball number.
6. Winning Often Leads To Feuds With Friends and Family
Winning the lottery will often cost you all (or at least some) of your relationships if you follow the stats. It goes without saying that you will be approached by friends and family seeking handouts. Those seeking handouts will likely irritate you, and even if you give them money, they will likely want more at some point. Eventually, the relationships will become strained. Family whom you haven’t spoken to in years will come out of the woodwork seeking money, which will put further distance between yourself and your family. Winning the lottery is a prime example of something that looks better than it is.
5. It Funds Education
One of the major reasons for the overwhelming support, both by the government and by the people, of the reinstatement of lotteries on a nearly-national level in the US was that the lotteries were supposed to fund education. If you live in the States, you’ve probably seen these ads at some point. Ads which claim the lottery is funding schools and going towards keeping those expensive arts and music programs alive and well. The Carolinas even boldly call their lottery program the Education Lottery. So, surely all of that money going towards our children must be worth it, right? We can donate to support the schools and get a chance to win millions.
4. Only It Really Doesn’t
Well, in reality, the money isn’t going where the people think it’s going. Only a very small percentage of the ticket sales actually go toward education. The lion’s share of the money makes its way into the government, fulfilling its purpose as a tax. In some cases, even the money that does go to the schools is meaningless. As reported by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the government will pull money already going into the school out to be re-purposed in order to be replaced with the money from the lottery. That way they can say the lottery money is going to the schools without technically lying.
3. The Largest Jackpot Ever Won By One Person Was Won in America
The largest jackpot ever won by one person was won off of the Powerball lottery in America. The winning ticket was claimed by Gloria MacKenzie in Zephyrhills, Florida, in 2013. The amount won was a massive $590.5 million. She was a retired teacher from a small town who moved to Florida to enjoy her golden years. She claimed that she would donate $2 million of her earnings to help repair the roof of a school in her hometown. She won off of random numbers generated by the “quick pick” system, and she was quite lucky that another lottery customer let her cut in line to generate the winning ticket. She was 84 when she claimed her prize.
2. A Lot Of Winners Actually Keep Their Jobs
One of the first things people say when asked what they would do if they won the lottery is that they would quit their jobs right away and do nothing for the rest of their lives. That doesn’t actually happen in a lot of cases. In fact, recent polling has shown that statement might not even be true. In a poll conducted by Gallup, most Americans claim they would continue to work after winning $10 million. Some said they would look into changing fields, but they don’t just want to do nothing. Having a job, it seems, is about more than just the money. It’s about contributing something and having a place to belong.
1. Winning Often Doesn’t Lead To A Set Life
Winning the lottery in most cases doesn’t lead to a life of luxury and being set until the day you die with still money left to give as an inheritance. It just doesn’t work that way in the real world. In the real world, most lottery winners are relatively poor, and they don’t know how to be rich. Being rich doesn’t seem like something that’s a skill, but managing money sure is. Most big winners go so crazy with the luxury cars, mansions and partying, that they often blow through their money extremely quickly. In fact, in 2002, a garbage man turned jackpot winner in England won nearly $20 million only to blow it all and go back to working his day job by 2010. Although, it was rumored his money had nearly run dry before 2006.
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