Ready to win the lottery? What are the chances ...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

With the Powerball jackpot expected to hit $500 million tonight, we thought it might be a good idea to write about what to do if you win -- you know, stay anonymous as long as possible, assemble a team of lawyers and financial advisers, sign the ticket and lock it in a safety deposit box.

On the other hand, since the odds of winning are 1 in 175 million, the chances of you winning AND reading our editorial are, well, astronomical.

According to a story from the Daily Beast the last time a jackpot got this high, you are more likely to be killed by a vending machine (1 in 112 million) than winning tonight's lottery. That's enough to kill two Americans every year. Other more likely events include dying in an airline-related terrorist attack, having identical quadruplets (what are your chances, fellows?), becoming president, being killed in an asteroid apocalypse, dying from an insect sting, dying from being left handed, becoming a movie star, dying in a plane crash and on and on.

In fact, you have a 1 in 6,700 chance of being killed in a car wreck, perhaps on your way to buy that ticket.

Lottery officials doubled the cost of the ticket to $2 at the first of the year and made other changes to raise bigger jackpots, which resulted in today's half-billion dollar prize.

It's not entirely impossible to win; in fact, nine jackpots ranging from $2.5 million to $365 million have been won in Nebraska since the Nebraska Lottery began offering Powerball in July 1994. The previous record high was in February 2006, when eight coworkers at the ConAgra Foods ham and corned beef plant in Lincoln split that $365 million.

We've always been critical of the lottery system, suggesting that any government-sponsored activity is suspect that has to come with its own treatment system for addicts created by that activity. Too many of the players don't have enough money for food or shelter, let alone two bucks to waste on a 1-in-175 million long-shot.

Lotter proponents note, however, that more than $458 million has been raised for Nebraska Lottery's beneficiaries since the lottery began in 1993. All 93 counties have benefited from support from the Education Innovation, Nebraska Opportunity Grant, Nebraska Environmental Trust, Nebraska State Fair Support and Improvement and Compulsive Gamblers Assistance funds.

If you must take a chance, buy only a ticket or two -- buying more really doesn't increase your chances. If you find yourself in trouble because of gambling -- legal or illegal -- call the Gambling Help Line toll free at 800-GAMBLER.

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