Buying lottery tickets for fun once in a while won’t break the bank. Playing with money you don’t have, or that you will need later on, however, is a recipe for disaster. For those who decide to play responsibly, the good news is that a portion of the money that goes towards state lotteries is used for education and children’s programs. The only responsible way to play the lottery is to do so occasionally for fun, without any expectation of winning. When it turns into something else, you know it’s time to stop.
Find the expected value. This is a good idea for any lottery game you are considering playing. The expected value refers to the probability of any one outcome, assuming all outcomes are equally probable. Here, the expected value calculates the value of the ticket, if the game was set up fairly so that the revenue gained from the losing tickets would match the winners' profits.
With all this talk about the odds against winning and how much money is wasted on lottery tickets, one may forget that people do win the jackpot once in a great while. Every now and then, we read about someone who won a huge jackpot of a few hundred million dollars and how he or she is planning on retiring, buying a new car, or giving a percentage to a favorite charity.
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To illustrate this point, let’s say an average lottery player spends $5 per week on Powerball tickets. That’s $20 each month or $240 spent on lottery tickets every year. This person buys lottery tickets every month of every year for 25 years, as my grandfather did throughout his adult life. The amount spent on lottery tickets over a lifetime is $6,000, which surely could have been put to better use. Instead, that $6,000 disappeared, and never won any jackpot big enough to cover the player’s expenses.
In the Mega Millions multi-state lottery, jackpots are split equally among all winners who match all numbers. If a player could ensure that he wouldn't have to split the jackpot, Mega Millions becomes a smart bet whenever the jackpot exceeds about $420 million, but this calculation doesn't account for the possibility of a split jackpot. It has been theorized that the ticket buying frenzies as the jackpot rises increases the likelihood of multiple winners sufficiently that the jackpot can never get large enough to give a ticket a positive expected value.
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If you are a Jackpot winner in a state that requires your name be publicized, or if you choose to be known as a winner, or if your secret gets out unintentionally, the world will be waiting to meet its newest multimillionaire. Some people will simply be curious, while others will seek a cut of your fortune. Solicitors and the media will seek out your home, your workplace, and your friends and family. While this will not last long, you should leave town with your loved ones for a few days so that you can celebrate your life-changing event in private. Before you go, ask your attorney or spokesperson to handle any questions for you in your absence.
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The minute you realize you have all the numbers, you’re ecstatic. But make absolutely sure that what you’re celebrating is real. Check the numbers again. And again. Verify the numbers on the website, and check again that your ticket has the same numbers and the correct drawing date. Avoid embarrassment and disappointment by, before anything else, making sure you are truly the winner of the Jackpot.
Lotteries have often been called a “tax on the poor,” and for good reason. The majority of lottery ticket buyers are in the lower income tax brackets. Often less educated about finances and less likely to save money for retirement, these lottery players don’t view the expense of a few lottery tickets as a major cash outlay. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In the long run, spending money on tickets that never win costs players more than just the face value of the tickets and prevents many people from ever getting out of debt.
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While lottery winners do not have to have an attorney to claim their tickets, having an experienced attorney representing you will help you avoid mistakes you will later regret as they significantly affect your fortune. And having a legal team taking each step with you can help you walk through this extremely daunting process with excitement rather than fear and worry.