A 37-year-old Long Island, New York mother this week used a penny to scratch off a state-issued lottery ticket revealing that she’d won $1 million-a-year for life, with a guarantee of $20 million. That’s more than $650,000 a year, after taxes.
The lottery is an old idea—Agamemnon used to run numbers out of his hat to see who fought next, and similar games of chance helped finance the Great Wall of China. It has long had opponents, of course: due improbable odds against winning and unflagging popularity among the poor, lotteries are known variously as a “tax on the stupid,” or the gentler “tax on the mathematically inept.” But the poor are by no means the only players. Last year three hedge fund managers in Greenwich, Connecticut, shared tens of millions in prize money from a dollar’s investment. 43 out 50 US states host a lottery. Consider this: 1600 people each year win at least a million bucks. That’s four million-dollar-winners a day. The current Powerball jackpot is $250 million. The odds are one-hundred-and-seventy-five million, two-hundred-twenty-three thousand, five-hundred and ten to one. Good luck.