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The lottery in Babylon

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Here’s some ace reporting from CNN:

Call it a hat trick.

A Maryland woman has won her third lottery prize of at least $100,000 in five years, a feat she attributes to strategy and luck.The stay-at-home mom, 30, from Wicomico County won her latest prize playing a $100,000 Lucky scratch-off ticket, Maryland Lottery said Monday.

Virginia woman realizes she won the lottery after trashing her ticket“I couldn’t believe it when I saw how much I’d won,” she told lottery officials, according to a release on the website. “I immediately called my husband and said, ‘We did it again.'”

When asked by lottery officials how she managed to win for a third time, she said research.

“We figure out which scratch-off games have been on sale for a long time but still have a lot of big-money prizes,” she said.The information is available on the Maryland Lottery website. The $100,000 Lucky game, for example, debuted last September and still has more than 40 top prizes available.Still, there’s an element of luck, especially when it comes to choosing where to buy the ticket. She picked a Goose Creek convenience store in Mardela Springs based on sheer intuition.”I knew that they sold a big ticket a few weeks ago,” she said. “I hoped that there was still some luck hanging around there.”

As for the prize money, the lucky woman says she’s putting it all in the bank for her children.Despite her repeated wins, she’s still in shock: “This is as crazy as it was the other times. It’s unbelievable.”

Now let’s look at the Maryland Lottery’s press release about this amazing event:

She’s a stay-at-home mother living with her family in a small Wicomico County town, and she’s a Lottery luck magnet. Amazingly, the $100,000 scratch-off prize she was in Baltimore to claim last week is her third win of at least $100,000 in the last five years.

When asked about her extraordinary run of luck, the 30-year-old replied with one word – research.

“My husband and I do the work on your website,” she explained to Lottery officials. “We figure out which scratch-off games have been on sale for a long time but still have a lot of big-money prizes.”

This method led her to the $100,000 Lucky game when she stopped at Goose Creek #03 convenience store and gas station in Mardela Springs. The $30 instant ticket debuted last September and still has more than 40 top prizes available.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw how much I’d won,” said the Eastern Shore woman. “I immediately called my husband and said, ‘We did it again.’” Asked if she was accustomed to the excitement surrounding the giant win after her two previous experiences, she said, “Are you kidding? This is as crazy as it was the other times. It’s unbelievable!”

The winner admitted that, despite the research behind her selection of her lucky game, pure luck and pure superstition led her to select Goose Creek #03 to be her Lottery retailer. “I knew that they sold a big ticket a few weeks ago,” she said. “I hoped that there was still some luck hanging around there.”

The winner plans to put her latest prize in the bank. “We know how lucky we are. This money, as was the case with our other big wins, will be there for our children. We’re taking good care of it.”

So basically some reporter at CNN is tasked with turning state lottery press releases into news stories.

BTW state lotteries are currently generating about $105 billion in sales per year. So the average American adult spent $407 on lottery tickets in 2021, and won around $203.50, which on its face doesn’t sound like the world’s greatest investment strategy. On the other hand a lot of people are saying that you can prove anything with statistics, and can you really put a price on the sheer joy people get from a bit of harmless wagering? (Narrator voice: You can).

Of course I suspect the median number of dollars spent on lottery tickets by American adults last year was zero, and that just like Bud Light, cocaine, and donations to Joel Osteen’s worldwide Christian evangel, 75% of the revenue came from 10% of the participants in the market, or “market,” given that this is a state monopoly.

Lotteries have been called a stupidity tax, but in a country that elected Donald Trump president they’re far from the only one. My favorite bit of innumeracy surrounding this particular grift is how lotteries are sold to the general public on the basis of the claim that the revenue they generate is dedicated to various especially critical government functions, like the education of the young. This indicates that people don’t appreciate that money is fungible, and also don’t know what the word “fungible” means, which to be scrupfair is a term I had never heard before I took Contracts in law school back in Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days.

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