What's up with all these lottery threads?

Don’t people realize that gambling is a voluntary tax on the mathematically challenged?


Well, that’s something that literally hasn’t been said in every single thread about the lotto since this ginormous Powerball craze. Way to be go out on a limb, you crazy diamond you.

Have you heard the good news about Jesus Christ?
John 3:16

Both equally ineffective.

Well, if that second question has been asked so many times, what’s the answer?

Or maybe just answer the first question: why all these lottery threads? Unless I’m mistaken they’re not all started by the same person.

Probably because the jackpot reaching all-time highs (now over a billion bucks) is newsworthy. Of course, since the odds of winning Powerball were drastically lowered a few months back, these kinds of “really big” pots are going to become relatively more common. And of course that’s why the lottery people lowered the odds in the first place. Crafty buggers, they.

Considering what I pay in taxes for stuff I don’t care about, the Maybe Jophiel Gets A Billion Dollars Tax isn’t the worst one.

I’ll show you my Powerball! Giggity.

If you want to play the lottery, you have to pick one where your winnings are just big enough to change your life in the way you want it to be changed and no bigger. A one-in-a-million chance of 10 million is much better than a one-in-a-hundred-million chance of a billion.

What you also don’t want is lots of small prizes using up the money that could go towards a big prize.

If you are very poor then playing the lottery could be rational, assuming there are no other ways to better your life by investing the same amount of money. But most people are better off saving or investing or using the money to learn a new skill.

Something I heard recently really blew my mind: depending on the weather, the number of people using a taxi is highly variable. So assume you’re a driver who can decide how many hours to work, such as an Uber driver. Turns out what they do is work MORE on slow days and LESS on busy days in order to make about the same every day! Why not work more on busy days and take the day off on slow days? That way you earn more money with the same number of hours.

But I guess math is hard.

I’m probably better off playing the lottery than buying a bag of potato chips.

I still can’t get over how many people, just on here no less, who take issue with folks who throw away a couple of bucks, a couple times a year, for amusement purposes. Why not complain about folks who consistently play and are whining about being dirt poor? That’s an infinitely different kettle of fish than what’s mostly going on here. Beyond that, windmills are for the taking. Keep tilting, Don.

…and ultimately there is that. If you can afford it without strain, buying the occasional lottery ticket instead of a pack of twinkies is just good fun fantasy. As someone mentioned in another of those threads, for most you sorta gotta invest to really get psychologically immersed in the winning-the-lottery fantasy.

The question is whether the marginal enjoyment of fantasizing about winning a boatload of money is worth a buck or two to you every once in awhile. The answer to that is going to vary.

So is drinking at a bar instead of at home. Or eating in a restaurant instead of at home…The point it that there is something else going on in addition to the math.

That’s the thing. Every discussion of the lottery, here and in real life conversations, has someone making that crack about a “tax on people who can’t do math.” And yet, who among us is completely rational in his/her spending, saving and investments? Did you buy coffee from Starbucks instead of making it at home, or getting it from McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts? When was the last time you checked if you could get a slightly better interest rate if you moved your money to a different bank? How wisely are you allocating your retirement accounts?

I’ll bet that there are a thousand decisions you make each year that cost you more than the cost of a couple of Powerball tickets.

++ (Me too.)

Yes, the thing that’s going on is called “buying a service”. Not everything worth buying is necessarily a solid object that can be taken home and displayed on a shelf. But with a lottery ticket you aren’t actually buying anything at all, from any practical perspective. For those who rationalize it as entertainment, some of us can entertain ourselves with thoughts of being very rich, should we wish to do so, without having to pay someone to supply the plot outline.

Not trying to be a stick-in-the-mud about this, because as I said somewhere else earlier I’ve been known to buy the occasional lottery ticket myself. I have no religious fervor against the concept. But it is, ultimately, a silly kind of frivolity.

The last sentence is probably true, but, again, there’s often real value in those decisions. Anyone could spend the rest of their life doing nothing but hunting for the best possible returns on investment or the best possible service providers, but since we have better things to do, we don’t. And I agree that $2 is insignificant to anyone but a pauper, but look at it in different terms: filling up your car at a gas station and then buying a lottery ticket that they’re often trying to push on you is the equivalent, let’s say in rough round numbers, of consistently picking a gas station that charges 10¢ a gallon more than the one across the street for exactly the same product. Doing it once, twice, or three times because you’re in a hurry and the other one is on the wrong side of the street is fine. Doing it all the time starts to add up.

Seems to me that it’s exactly the opposite. If one regards the cost of a lottery ticket as a tax – and it is – then it’s a kind of flat tax and as such an extraordinarily regressive tax that hits those who can least afford it by far the hardest. I have no doubt that there are poor people for whom the cost of the regular batch of desperation lottery tickets makes the difference between a decent meal for their children and a substandard one. My cite for this is human nature, and the things I’ve observed at checkout counters.

Yes it’s a voluntary tax, it’s advertised that way. And plenty of non-mathematically challenged people buy lottery tickets because they don’t care if it costs a couple of bucks to dream a little. What kind of ‘challenged’ keeps someone from understanding that?

Who says I don’t ALSO entertain myself with free thoughts of being rich? The free thoughts pay out exactly nothing tho, as opposed to essentially nothing for a ticket. If anything, much like the bag of chips argument above, I’m healthier with forgoing a beer or two for this entertainment.

At least its more fun than the involuntary ones we all pay? :wink:

I’m far from a millionaire, but I will admit to never paying attention to gas prices at different filling stations :). I go to the 5 or 6 that are most convenient to me in my normal routine and figure they cost what they cost. Of course I live in an area where independents are rare and most corporate stations converge towards very similar prices, so it is just not worth the extra effort to sort through them to save a few bucks.

I’m pretty much a convenience over value guy generally. Takes all sorts, y’know ;).