Powerball: Play a Little, Not a Lot

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No one has won the Powerball lottery in a while, raising the stakes to $1.5 billion this week.

Here we go again. Another mega Powerball lottery week, only this time the jackpot has jumped to $1.5 billion, an all-time record.

Go ahead and play – I plunked down the princely sum of $2, plus $7 the week before. But understand that it’s highly, highly, highly unlikely you’re going to win. That’s right: three highlys in there just to make the point that the odds are nearly 300 million to one.

Not for nothing that lotteries are known as a poor man’s tax, pumped up by pipe dreams of an instant change in financial circumstances. Many economists consider lotteries to be a regressive tax, meaning the poor are hit harder because they spend a higher percentage of their income on tickets than do more affluent players.

We’ve all seen it. Somebody’s holding up the customer service line at Publix or Winn Dixie, buying $100 worth of lottery tickets. Or this scenario: Somebody has brought in a bucket load of tickets to check their winnings. One by one the tickets are stamped “Not a Winner.”

Nearly every state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have government-sponsored lotteries, and they have come to depend on the beaucoup money. Lotteries generated $78 billion, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries – and that was in 2012, the latest year I could find.

The tax comes with a gloss of “do goodism,” since in Florida at least the money is dedicated to education funding. Except that there was a little trickery involved because the Legislature then decreased the budget allocation to education, shifting the onus to the Lotto, which has raised $29 billion in the Sunshine State, according to the Florida Lottery.

But it’s hard to disguise how greedy we are to get our grubby little fingers on lottery dough. One Twitter post stated, “I bet another 84-year old is going to win it again,” referring to the 84-year old Floridian who in 2013 walked away with a $590.5 million Powerball purse. As if grannies shouldn’t gamble their Social Security.

For the record, I’m OK with a senior winning the $1.5 billion jackpot this week – as long as it’s my mommy.

˜˜ Maria T. Padilla, Editor

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