The Lottery Is a Predator and You Are Its Math-Illiterate Prey

You were never going to win the lottery. The odds were farcically low. But just in case you were keeping hope alive, we must now inform you: your odds have gotten much, much worse.

We're talking about the Mega Millions here. The big one, the national one, the one that, along with Powerball, advertises the gaudy nine-figure jackpots. David Lazarus notes today that recently—perhaps while you were daydreaming about what to buy with your Mega Millions winnings—the Mega Millions people made it much less likely that will ever win. From the LA Times:

Your odds of winning the jackpot used to be 1 in 176 million. As of Oct. 22, those odds changed to 1 in 259 million.

That's because you used to have to pick six numbers from 1 to 56. Now you have to pick them from 1 through 75.

The fact that most people will completely ignore this monstrous decimation of the odds just goes to show how incredibly ridiculous the odds were even before this change was made. The odds of hitting the Mega Millions jackpot are now close to the odds of the proposition, "One single person in the United States of America, chosen at random, will be given a large sum of money." And the act of buying a Mega Millions ticket is comparable to a belief that that one person in America will be you. A form of mental illness, in other words.

The most egregious aspect of this is the quote that Lazarus got from the Mega Millions spokesperson: "We can expect to see larger jackpots and greater excitement. Yet one very important thing won't change. The price of a Mega Millions ticket will remain $1."

The chance of your ticket being worth anything are much lower. Yet its price will not decrease. And you, the public, are so hapless that the lottery people are using this drawback as a selling point.

Do not buy lottery tickets. You are only encouraging financial predators if you do.

[Photo: AP]