10 Fun, Weird, Sometimes Disturbing Factoids About the $640 Million Mega Millions Lottery

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Tonight at 11:00 p.m. E.T., the winning numbers of a record-breaking $640 million lottery will be announced. The monster jackpot is causing a frenzy across the U.S., with players waiting up to three hours to buy tickets at “hot” stores and math nerds debating whether it’s worth it to buy a ticket. The media circus over Mega Millions even manages to include, yes, a gorilla.

Here, 10 curious need-to-know tidbits regarding the big Mega Millions lottery — and lotteries in general:

An economist says this Mega Millions is actually “a good bet.” The odds of winning the lottery are roughly 1 in 176 million. But after doing the math this time around — including tabulating the odds of winning and splitting the prize with others as well as subtracting taxes and lesser-prize payouts — an economist named Stephen Bronars blogged that it makes sense to play Mega Millions this week. In his estimation, right now the “expected value of a Mega Millions ticket is about $1.23.”

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Others say the lottery’s never a good bet, even with the record jackpot. The Wall Street Journal cites a computer scientist who has run the numbers every which way and says that “higher jackpots actually yield lower expected payouts, as the odds of having multiple winners rise.” The best odds of winning occur when the prize hits $420 million, but even then the “expected value” of a $1 lottery ticket is just 69¢. The lottery has been dubbed the Stupid Investment of the Week, though it could be argued that it should get the title for all time. Lottery players have also been dubbed the Nation’s Biggest Suckers.
When asked if you’d quit your job after winning the lottery, you should lie. It’s a fairly common question asked by job interviewers: If you won the lottery, would you keep working? Companies aren’t really concerned about the possibility this would happen, and on some level every hiring manager has to know that most people would quit if hundreds of millions of dollars fell into their lap. Nonetheless, the question is asked because the answer can reveal just how little the job applicant cares about work and his career or the company doing the hiring. It’s something of a trick question, so pause before answering — and when you answer, don’t blab on about how much you loathe the idea of having to get up in the morning to go to the office.

You probably shouldn’t play in the office pool. After a recent high-profile case in which a group that played the lottery as a team is suing a former co-worker who won the jackpot and didn’t tell (or share the winnings with) his colleagues, the current advice for those interested in tossing a few dollars into an office lottery pool includes carefully tracking all of the interested parties and numbers played, copying all tickets for all players, making provisions in case someone is on vacation or doesn’t have the money that week to play and … do you get the point?

People are waiting in line for three hours to buy tickets at “hot” stores. One such supposedly lucky establishment is a liquor store in Hawthorne, Calif., according to USA Today. A Yelp reviewer offers this recent report regarding the Bluebird Liquor store: “I don’t know what it is about this place but it seems very magical when you buy a lottery ticket. I went on a day where the jackpot wasn’t even high and there was a decent sized line. If you are a serious lottery player come in and check it out. It is a spectacle for sure. There are people in line with 100 dollar bills buying all kinds of scratchers.”

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Want help picking numbers? A Columbus Zoo gorilla can help. ABC News’ Good Morning America headed to Ohio to consult Colo, a gorilla who correctly picked last year’s NCAA Final Four (including the winner, Connecticut) to get her picks on this week’s Mega Millions. The prognosticating primate picked among onions marked 1 to 56 for the five main numbers and among turnips numbered 1 to 46 for the Mega Ball number. For the record, Colo went with 9, 12, 21, 31, 41 and Mega Ball 9.

5 years or less. That’s the typical amount of time it takes a lottery winner to burn through his winnings.

Illinois started selling lottery tickets online just this week. Quite conveniently, the state of Illinois began selling lottery tickets via the Web on Sunday, March 25. As of Thursday, march 29, $425,000 worth of lottery tickets had been sold online, most of them Mega Millions tickets. Users are allowed to sign up online to automatically play (and pay) lotteries with a credit card or bank account, just like being a subscriber to Netflix or a beer-of-the-month club. But Illinois limits the amount an individual can gamble to $3,500 annually, out of concern for abuse by gambling addicts. Nothing stops them from gambling in person, though, and that’s still where the vast majority of money is spent: on Thursday alone, $3.2 million was spent on Mega Millions in stores by 3 p.m., with an average of $8,700 spent per minute.

Roughly $10 million worth of lottery tickets will be sold on Friday — just in Massachusetts. As the Boston Globe notes, the state’s total population is just 6.5 million.

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You’re far more likely to die a horrible death than win. The statistics say that, compared with winning the lottery, you are 33 times as likely to be killed by bees, 50 times as likely to be struck by lightning, 8,000 times as likely to be murdered and 20,000 times as likely to be killed in a car crash.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

1 comments
Rachel_Black1D
Rachel_Black1D

5 Years to burn though $640m - now that would be some kind of feat!!