Senator Powerball!

What do you get a millionaire US Senator who’s already got everything? How about a Powerball ticket? As the jackpot climbed to nearly $350 million, New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg was intriuged and bought a ticket. Proving that fortune favors the curious, he won a cool $853, 492. From CBS4 Boston:

On a whim, U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg pulled into a gas station in Washington this week and bought $20 worth of Powerball tickets. As he was leaving, a clerk ran after him because he had left one of the tickets behind.

“She was a very pleasant young woman; she might have kept it and for all I know it might have been the winning ticket,” he said in a telephone news conference.

Gregg collected a check for $853,492 from the Powerball Lottery on Thursday.

According to his latest financial disclosure form, Gregg has between $1.5 million and $6.2 million in stocks and other major investments.

What will he do with the lottery money?

“Whatever my wife tells me what to do with it?” he joked, saying he would turn the winnings over to the Hugh Gregg Foundation, which supports New Hampshire charities and is named after Gregg’s late father, a former governor of New Hampshire.

Gregg said he didn’t play any particular numbers and allowed the lottery ticket machine to select them at random. He said he checked the tickets Thursday and told his wife, Kathy, that he had won some money.

“She said, ‘Are you sure you read the numbers correctly?’ because I tend to be a little dyslexic, I tend to transpose numbers,” he said.

He said he doesn’t buy lottery tickets often but was intrigued by the publicity of the jackpot rising to about $350 million.

“Every American believes in good fortune and good luck and I’m no different than anyone else,” he said.

A Powerball ticket worth $340 million was sold in Jacksonville, Ore. No one has stepped forward yet to claim the largest jackpot in the game’s history and the second-biggest in U.S. history.

Gregg’s ticket was one of 47 regular tickets and two with the Power Play option that matched the first five numbers but not the Powerball. The winning numbers drawn Wednesday evening were 7, 21, 43, 44, 49 and 29. The lump sum option would be worth $110 million after taxes.

CBS4 Boston: NH Sen. Judd Gregg Wins Powerball Cash

What I want to know is this: isn’t it false advertising for Powerball to claim that it’s a $340 million jackpot when the lump sum payout after taxes is about one-third of that?

Sure, $110 million is more money than most people could figure out how to spend, but still, it seems misleading.

Personally, I don’t see why people get so much more interested by these mega-payouts. A $10 million jackpot is going to change your life just as much as a $110 million one. The more rational consumer would want to participate in a lottery with 11 chances at $10 million rather than one chance at $110 million.

But, people just see the big numbers, so, without reading the fine print, they burn $50 in lottery tickets hoping to win “$340 million.” What gets me is when these same people get indignant about those who choose to put that $50 on the pass line of a craps game.

Which is the better bet? Let’s see…

The odds of winning Powerball (thanks, Durango Bill) are 1 in 146 million, or .00000000684425.

The odds of winning your pass line bet are a little less than 1 in 2, or 48.6%.

The payout is much less, but you’re much more likely to walk away the victor. Add in the complimentary drinks and RFB (if you play enough), and you might even end up ahead.

Of course, there are only two ways to guarantee you don’t lose while gambling: you can cheat, which will probably land you in jail, or you can just not play.

Closing it out, here’s an interesting observation from Durango Bill:

Government statistics show there are about 1.7 automobile caused fatalities for every 100,000,000 vehicle-miles. If you drive one mile to the store to buy your lottery ticket and then return home, you have driven two miles. Thus the probability that you will join this statistical group is 2 x 1.7 / 100,000,000 = 0.000000034. This can also be stated as “One in 29,411,765-“. Thus, if you drive to the store to buy your Powerball ticket, your chance of being killed (or killing someone else) is about 5 times greater than the chance that you will win the Powerball Jackpot.

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