It’s that time of the year again: with both the Mega Millions and the Powerball lotteries accumulating jackpots greater than $350 million, countless Americans – mostly those in lower income groups – are splurging on lottery tickets, hoping to get rich quick.
Unfortunately for virtually everyone, it will never happen: the odds of winning both (or either) are absolutely staggering, a bit worse than 1 in 75.6 quadrillion, or 1 in 75,648,252,765,957,300 to be precise. On a percentage basis, one only has a 0.000000000000000013% chance of holding both winning tickets. Putting these odds in context, they are about 6,000 times worse than the odds experts have calculated of being killed by a meteorite strike — at the same time you’re being attacked by a shark. The odds of winning “only” one jackpot are not much higher: the Powerball winning odds are 1 in 292 million, while those for Mega Million are slightly better: 1 in 259 million.
Here is an even more stunning statistic: in 2016, Americans spent more than $80 billion on lottery tickets last year, more than they spend on movies, video games, music, sports tickets and books – combined.
Some enjoy mocking American stupidity: “If you buy both tickets, you’ve doubled your odds of winning,” said Ben Auerbach, lead data strategist for Allstate, which technically is correct; the odds are still pretty much zero. Auerbach, who said he never buys lottery tickets himself, calculated the very long odds of a double win not for work but because “it’s fun to do this rather than run numbers about premiums and insurance.”
Still, for many Americans in the declining middle class and growing lower class, this remains the only hope of success: “You see more people in line buying both tickets when both games are over $300 million,” Jeff Lenard, spokesman for National Association of Convenience Stores, whose members sell about two-thirds of the nation’s lottery tickets told CNNMoney.
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Yet while for actuaries the numbers above may be a joke, across the US they are another example of what is has become a social tragedy.