I really don’t like gambling. The thought of winning, for me, is more than offset by the knowledge that I’ll probably just lose my money with nothing to show for it. This is why I decline invites even to nickel-dime-quarter poker games, why I consider scratch-off lotteries to be a sucker tax, and why I loathe casinos. Anybody who walks in really ought to know that the house has stacked all of the odds in their favor, and yet, people line up to dump their kids’ college funds into a black hole, driven by the self-defeating fantasy of making money by not actually having to work for it. I just don’t get it.
Last month, the nation was gripped once again by jackpot fever, as the multi-state Mega-Millions lottery drawing reached a record-setting $656 million payout. There is an interesting break point with lotteries that manage to build up enormous payouts. At some point, the payout gets so big that people who don’t normally play start buying tickets. And at that point, a winner is virtually assured, which, in fact, dilutes the chances of everybody else playing, even when you take into account that most of the folks buying tickets are buying more than one.
I suppose it’s a good thing that winning ticket holders – one each from Kansas, Maryland and Illinois – drew their lucky numbers on the March 30 drawing, for if they hadn’t, the next Mega Millions jackpot would have gone to nearly a billion dollars. At that point, I think the country would have collectively lost its mind.