The Lottery: A Means to Free College, the Life of Your Dreams, and/or an Easy Loss of $102

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In nearly all cases, a dollar gambled isn’t going to make any of your dreams come true. There’s nothing new about that. But what is new with the lottery?

In Illinois, play the state lottery and you could win four years of in-state college tuition (hat tip to CR’s Money Blog). Tickets cost $2, and grand-prize winners get their choice of the following: four years of tuition and mandatory fees covered at an Illinois public university or community college, the equivalent amount applied to pretty much any private or public college in the country, or a flat $20,000 payout.

Where did the idea for this come about? The Illinois Lottery folks explain:

We often receive suggestions from our players about prizes, game types and other aspects of our business. This game was created to respond to the demand presented by our players.

Perhaps in the next lottery they come up with, grand-prize winners will be awarded full-time jobs with decent pay and good benefits. That, I imagine, is what many lottery players really want.

Let’s take a step back: What would you do if you actually won the lottery? People love to dream about what their lives would be like if it happened, and a MoneyNing post challenges readers to make those dreams come true whether they’ve won the lottery or not. For example, many people say that if they won the lottery, they’d quit their jobs and do what they love. The advice here is to stop daydreaming, to stop awaiting some magical jackpot, to stop whining, and instead to start actively making your work life (and beyond) better:

It’s easy to get caught in the grind and think that only winning the lottery will save you, but chances are excellent that there is a way for you be happier in your work and at the same time do what you can to make your retirement as comfortable as possible, so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

It’s a good thing there are ways to make your dreams come true without a lottery win—because chances are you just ain’t gonna win anything. Wanna see how much and how often you’re likely to lose? Try this Incredibly Depressing Mega Millions Lottery Simulator (hat tip to Consumerist). I tried it out, and after playing 104 times (twice a week for a year), I virtually spent $104 and won a grand virtual total of $2—a virtual net loss of $102.

All in all, however, I found this simulator more uplifting than depressing. Why? I don’t play the lottery.

Q&A: ‘The Lottery Wars’ Author Matthew Sweeney