I am not really into gambling because I believe that I have bad luck when it comes to any game of chance. I don’t win in any raffle during Christmas parties. In the few times that I went to the casino to play the slot machine, I lost more money than I actually won. My biggest winning in the slot machine was $50 in dimes which occurred when I was down to my last few coins after wasting something like $80.
I play the lottery once in a while, getting a little bit more frequent whenever I hear that the jackpot runs into hundreds of million dollars. Usually, I play the office pool as there is always somebody at the office who collects money when the jackpot goes big. Even if I am hesitant to play, I always think that I must play because I do not want to be left out if my office mates won. I can imagine them quitting their jobs because the lottery made millionaires out of them and I will continue working because I did not play.
Outside the office pool, I also play the lottery whenever I get the chance, especially since there is a lottery outlet where I go grocery shopping. I usually buy a ticket each of California Super Lotto, Mega Millions, and Powerball. That is spending $4 every time I play – a dollar each for Super Lotto and Mega Millions and two dollars for Powerball.
Once in a while, lady luck smiles at me and make me fortunate enough to win a dollar or two. In all the years that I had been playing the lottery, in the office pool or when I chance upon an outlet and there is a loose change in my wallet, the biggest amount that I ever won was $15. I could not even remember now what that lottery was or the year when I won that “big” amount.
Everybody Is Playing
I notice that almost everybody around me is playing the lottery especially when the jackpot becomes big. I always hear how the lottery fever grips the city and actually see the long lines outside the lottery betting stations. I also observe that the people who lined up to get their lottery tickets come from all walks of life. I see well-dressed people, office workers, blue collar workers, and even street bums holding on to their precious bills for the lottery tickets.
My curiosity is always piqued. I always wonder how much money they are throwing into the lottery game. However, I found it improper to go look at how much each lottery player was betting. I asked my friends who were into the lottery game for a long time and learned that it is common for people to spend twenty or so dollars on lottery tickets. When the jackpot gets really big, like hundreds of millions of dollars, there are people who will throw away hundreds or thousands of dollars for the chance of winning the big one.
The idea that people could actually throw away hundreds or thousands of dollars for lottery tickets is quite shocking to me. But then, a lot of people spend more than those amounts gambling in the casinos. That really shows how deeply-ingrained gambling is in the mindset of people.
People Actually Get Rich
There are lots of newspaper and magazine articles about the lottery in particular and gambling in general. One thing that stands out is that people actually get rich gambling or playing the lottery. The world is very rich in stories of how people on the short end of luck suddenly strike big when they won a lottery jackpot. The stories of overnight riches seem to be the big motivator for people to throw in their last money into a lottery ticket.
If one will be reading the stories of how people suddenly found financial salvation by winning lottery jackpots, he will be inspired to start betting on every lottery draw and pin his hopes on a better future on the balls during lottery draws. I understand a lot of people have this mindset. After toiling the whole day, every single day of their lives, many people still find themselves wallowing in deep poverty. Don’t ever tell these people that hard work is their ticket to a better life because they will tell you that they not only work hard, they are killing themselves working and still there is no hope in sight.
There was that delivery truck driver in Northern California who had been buying tickets at every stop he makes. Then he heard over the radio that one of the two winners of the $648 Mega Millions jackpot has yet to show up. It dawned on him that he stopped by to buy a ticket in San Jose, the city where the winning ticket was purchased. He looked for the ticket from the stack of tickets he had previously played and checked his computer for the winning numbers. He was the other winner! He just left a message on the voice mail of his employer that he is not coming back to work ever because he won the jackpot.
Big Lottery Games and Jackpots
Lottery keeps on inspiring people to play, in the hope of striking it rich one day, with the record jackpots paid out by many of the lottery operators worldwide. There is no better advertisement for a lottery game than the announcement of a multi-million jackpot actually winning.
The Spanish Christmas Lottery, popularly known as the El Gordo or the Fat One, is arguably the world’s largest lottery with the largest first prize jackpot. The December 2013 draw sold tickets worth €3.2 billion with a prize payout of €2.24 billion that was shared by millions of Spaniards.
The Mega Millions lottery in the United States paid out on March 30, 2012, the largest cash payout in the world’s lottery history – $656 million. Three lotto players shared this jackpot. Gloria MacKenzie of Florida won $590.5 million on the Powerball jackpot on May 18, 2013.
EuroMillions, a pan-European lottery, paid out a record £161.7 million or US$260 million to a single winner on July 12, 2011, in the United Kingdom. It is Europe’s biggest lottery game, played in different European countries. There are two giant EuroMillions jackpots every Tuesday and Friday, with the draw usually taking place in Paris, France. Matching five numbers and two Lucky Stars drawn on the raffle night pays the player the big jackpot prize.
The Irish Lottery, officially known as the National Lottery of Ireland, was founded in March 1987 to support government initiatives in the areas of health and welfare, the arts and national heritage, sport and recreation, and the Irish national language. On October 8, 2004, Ireland’s National Lottery joined the transnational EuroMillions lottery. On June 28, 2008, the Irish Lottery paid €19 million or US$ 30 million, the largest single-ticket jackpot in Ireland, to a group of sixteen quarry workers in County Carlow.
Through the years and in different countries in the world, big amount of lottery jackpots had been paid out to lucky winners, some of which just bought their lottery tickets for the first time.
Probability of Winning
Aware that real people won lottery jackpots all over the world, my curiosity was focused on the chances of actually winning one too. I know that people around me won minor lottery prizes but even those were few and rare. If one will add up the cost of tickets purchased, winning a minor prize once in a while is still a losing proposition. The real motivator really is hitting the big jackpot.
In the most basic lottery game where players have to choose 6 numbers from 49 numbers, the probability of winning is 1 in 13,983,816. In the Mega Millions lottery, a multi-state game here in the U.S., players have to choose 5 numbers from a group of 75 and another 1 number from of a group of 15. The probability of winning in this lottery is 1 in 258,890,850.
Winning a lottery jackpot is quite a tall order but then, people always think that somebody has got to win and it could be them.
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Pros of Playing the Lottery
Taking a deeper look at how lottery games impact the society, I could not help but notice that there are indeed benefits derived from playing the lottery.
Lotteries have inherent social benefits, in addition to the economic benefits awaiting the lucky winners. Most lotteries are run or sanctioned by governments and they are used to support programs in the fields of education, public safety, public health, and infrastructure development. The main argument in support of lottery games is focused on their importance as a revenue source for various government programs, contributed by players who voluntarily spend money for the chance to win big. In many states, such as California, big chunks of lottery income is earmarked for supporting public schools. Developing countries that are financially challenged get a financial boost from lottery income, which is then channeled to social amelioration projects.
Income generated by government-operated lotteries is huge and it continues to go up as more and more people invest their hard-earned money in pursuit of the dream jackpot. The operation of the lottery is in itself a catalyst for economic activities. Employment is created when lottery betting stations are established. The government’s share of the lottery income translates into projects and other economic activities that require the production of goods. The movement of billions of dollars in lottery sales will create economic opportunities in all sectors involved.
Then, there are the expected personal benefits to people who are lucky enough to win lottery prizes. It may not be the big jackpot but lower tier prizes in the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars could make a big difference in the life of a lottery player.
I could not imagine enough how a multi-million jackpot can be a game changer in the lives of people. Thinking about this very slim possibility is more than enough reason for people to scrimp on other expenses in order to buy a ticket or two of the day’s lottery game.
Cons of Playing the Lottery
There are two sides to a coin. While I am aware of the benefits that lottery games bring to the society, there are also downsides to playing the game.
Lottery games give false hope to the people. While the chance of winning is very real, it is incredibly so slim that a person has a greater likelihood of being struck by lightning than hitting the jackpot. And yet, Americans spend billions of dollars every year chasing that dream. Many people, I am sure, have spent thousands of dollars in their lifetime but die without winning any significant amount.
The lottery game is addictive. When people notice that they are “that close” to winning the jackpot, they keep on playing. When they keep on getting a dollar or so here and there, they keep on thinking that the winning trend will ultimately lead to that elusive jackpot. They look for ways to increase their chances of winning such as playing in syndicates or pools. Go to any workplace in the U.S. and you will find workers’ syndicate playing the lottery. This is evident in the fact that many jackpot winners are syndicates or pools of workers, friends, or family members.
The sad thing in playing the lottery is that there are instances when the family interest is sacrificed for the sake of the game. The common excuse is that they sacrifice a little but when they hit it big, it will tremendously benefit the whole family.
How I will Play the Lottery
I am still confused as to whether playing the lottery is beneficial or not. While I don’t mind spending a few dollars once in a while for lottery tickets, I am still in doubt if I spend my money judiciously. Of course, the equation will change if I won the jackpot although I still don’t feel I am lucky enough to hit the big one. But I am careful enough to know when to go indoors whenever a storm starts brewing.