Best Odds To Win Lottery – A sign shows the Powerball jackpot at a gas station Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Miami. Alan Diaz / AP
No matter where you play, the house always wins. And when it comes to state lotteries, some states place more bets on your bets than others.
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Lottery fever intensified across the US this week as the multi-state Powerball jackpot soared to $1.5 billion, making it the largest prize ever paid out. Ticket sales remained strong ahead of Wednesday’s draw, likely boosting the final payout. Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states, Washington, DC and two US territories.
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State lotteries have existed since the founding of the US, but since the modern era of government games in the 1960s, they have become a multibillion-dollar business, with sales of nearly $62 billion in fiscal year 2013, according to the most recent figures available. census.
That year, after paying nearly $39 billion in awards and $3.2 billion in operating costs, states collected about $20 billion in revenue to fund a long list of programs and services, from education to social services. On average, that’s about 62 cents in prizes for every dollar states receive from the lottery.
But not all states are as generous with their payments as others. West Virginia, which collected $720 million in lottery revenue in fiscal 2013, paid out just $116 million in prizes – or about 16 cents on every dollar. Other low-wage states include Delaware (22 cents), South Dakota (22 cents), Oregon (24 cents) and Rhode Island (28 cents).
Some states spend much more than others on operating costs. On average, about 5 cents of the money states collect from your lottery goes to pay for the administration of the game. Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey spend less than 3 cents. Maryland, Iowa and North Dakota spend more than 15 cents of every dollar of lottery revenue on administrative costs.
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States with limited budgets can use all the ticket sales they can get. But total lottery revenue represents about one penny of every dollar of total state revenue. Rhode Island relied heavily on lottery revenue for fiscal year 2013 — about 4.4 percent of total state revenue. West Virginia (3.9 percent) and Delaware (3.5 percent) also used lottery revenue to balance the budget. But for most states, lottery revenue is a small budget item.
State lotteries were promoted as a way to raise additional revenue for services such as public education. But critics of those lotteries argue that the long-term impact on education funding has been minimal — because lawmakers often use lottery winnings to shift other funds from general state revenue.
Critics also argue that using the lottery to pay for government services unfairly shifts the funding burden to the poor and working class.
The relationship between lottery sales and low-income customers is fairly well established. In 2004, three Cornell economists looked at 10 years of data from 39 states and found a strong correlation between lottery sales and poverty rates.
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“State officials extol the benefits of lottery revenue and promote the fun and excitement of participation,” the researchers wrote. “This entertainment value is one explanation for the demand for the lottery by the poor: people with lower incomes substitute playing the lottery for other entertainment.”
John W. Schoen is an award-winning online journalist who has been reporting and writing about economic, business and financial news for more than 30 years. He is a financial reporter for CNBC.com and was the founder of msnbc.com, CNBC and Marketplace Public Radio. Winning the lottery can be life-changing. With prizes reaching into the millions, a winning ticket can usher you into a life of eternal fun, luxury goods and even the occasional charitable donation. But lottery jackpots can often seem like the biggest by a long shot, so we’ve crunched the numbers. Have you ever wondered how good the odds are of winning big?
People have been asking the same question for centuries. Even the great mathematician Leonhard Euler devoted part of his writings to the invention of games of chance — primarily the Genoese lottery.
Now, we don’t know if Euler himself ever entered the lottery, let alone won. But his efforts tell us that calculating your exact odds only takes a little math. How come the lottery is a numbers game?
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We won’t go into details, but if you want to dig out the calculator, just remember that it all comes down to odds. Usually lotteries use drawing machines to generate winning numbers from shuffling numbered balls. As long as you know how many balls there are and how many rounds are in the draw, you have all the information you need to quantify how lucky you should be. (detailed description of lottery odds calculation)
As our infographic shows, this often means a lot of luck: the eye-popping millions you’re playing for may look impressive, but they have zero chance of winning to win.
Your odds, of course, vary slightly depending on the game you choose: a draw that asks you for 6 numbers out of 42 represents more reasonable odds than one with 59 balls in the draw. But as our infographic shows, in any case, the more impatient among us might want to try dating a supermodel.
Let’s put it this way: many things that are more likely than the jackpot are, at best, uncomfortable odds. Sure, it might be statistically easier to drown in a bathtub or get crushed by a meteorite, but would you really want to? On the other hand, a single lottery ticket could be almost ten times less than these ridiculous deaths, but being lucky is much less painful. If you want to use your luck, it might as well be with something that offers a much more desirable reward.
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At first glance, a 1 in 1.5 million chance of becoming the next George Clooney might sound better than your odds of a SuperEnalotto jackpot. The numbers certainly believe it. But the odds don’t mention all the hard work, talent, and connections you’ll need to put yourself in the running to become a movie star. Before you can hope to apply this 1 in 1.5 million opportunity to your career, you must first build your career from the ground up.
The same goes for your “best” chance of being President of the United States. To actually achieve these odds, you’ll need political reputation, lots of money and resources, and sheer stamina to see you through a long, arduous and expensive campaign. Oh, and of course, you’ll need to win over millions of people across the entire nation.
Don’t even get us started on what you’ll need if you want to be considered a saint.
Contrast all this with happiness, which doesn’t care how many acting classes you’ve taken, what your voting numbers are, or whether you’ve ever turned water into wine. While other possibilities such as the US presidency, canonization or a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame depend on many factors other than statistics and luck, the lottery is a fair playing field.
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Unlike other life-changing events, in the lottery, testing your luck is as simple and easy as a fork over some spare change.
You think you’d better play your cards, don’t you? It turns out that the lotto can be a safer bet than a series of good hands. A royal flush may be possible, but making multiple royal flushes in a row is a 1 in 957,000,000 chance. The SuperEnalotto jackpot seems much more attainable by comparison – and you don’t even have to go through a few rounds of nerve-wracking bluffing to have a good shot.
If you’re looking for an easy score, you could try selling autographed sporting goods. Many baseball fans go this route with foul balls caught during an MLB game. The signature of a professional and these balls have decent amount.
But running a reliable foul ball business can be a little tricky. To catch 4 in one game you would have to get 1 in 1 trillion odds.
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Here’s the good news: someone has already done it. Cleveland Indians fan Greg Van Niel caught four foul balls in the Cleveland Indians’ game against the Kansas City Royals.
In fact, people like you and I accomplish statistically impressive feats every day. This is not an exaggeration.
In 2011, a Harvard blog talked about Dr. But Binazir to calculate the probability of our existence – that is, the chances of us being born. He took into account many factors:
Dr. Binazir went all the way back to the beginning of human history to see how events in the past could have lined up to lead to your existence. After all, a case of deviation – no matter how small – would have a completely different result.
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In fact, you’re reading this right now, which means you’ve won perhaps the most difficult lottery ever. Compared to all the odds that had to line up to get you where you are, what’s the point of buying a few lottery tickets?
Each lottery ticket is one
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