@JohnOliver @LastWeekTonight #Lottery


Dear readers. Before you dive into this piece of my blog. There is something you should know up front. This blog was inspired by John Oliver’s commentary on lottery and I began to think about how I would have done it. John is my idol and I hope someday I could be as witty and funny as he is.

Lottery, the thing your dad went out to buy and never came back. To me, lottery is more like a scam than what it claims to be, which are life changing, funding education and fun. We’ll start by breaking these assertions down. Life changing? I guess it’s fair to say that––people intentionally lose money and still hope for becoming rich––this is definitely a changing trend, as opposed to the traditional value, which is working hard before becoming rich. Funding education? This is the excuse being used so often by the lottery that it has become a hard bone, we’ll save it for later. Fun? If you consider owing $31.000 to some street gang is fun, then okay, it’s fun. This is a real case. My friend’s deadbeat brother has an inveterate habit of buying lottery and now his family is in knee-deep trouble paying back for his debt to a silly lottery game called “Flying Fish”.


Although from the look of its poster, I’d say it’s more accurate to call it “swimming man”. Still, this is an excellent name choice implying the odds of winning is the odds of finding a real flying fish.

So let’s take a look at how much money do people really spend on lottery.

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In America, lottery sale has been increasing significantly, from 58 billion dollars in 2009 to 70 billion dollars in 2014. SEVENTY billion! That the entire population of China each of us giving you 50 bucks. Why did the sale spike? For one reason is that people spend more money on lottery than they used to; another reason is more people are buying lottery. The number––in millions––of people who buy lottery has increased from 87 in 2008 to 108 in 2014! This is a huge waste of money, people really should be spending these money elsewhere.

With lottery expenditure this huge, you’d think: well, it must the rich people who are buying the lottery, but it’s not! Just look at these graphs.

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Oster, Emily. Dreaming Big: Why Do People Play the Powerball? March 14, 2002
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Oster, Emily. Dreaming Big: Why Do People Play the Powerball? March 14, 2002

Poor people spend almost 3 times more than rich people do on lottery. And according to Geoff Williams, co-author of the book Living Well with Bad Credit, “poor people spend 9% of income on lottery”. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that lottery is not making our life better, it’s making it worse, and especially for the poor people. I hope the list of negative effects ends here, but it doesn’t. When asked: “If you win 10 million dollars, would you keep working or stop working?” These are people’s answers.

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1/3 of the people chose to stop working! Lottery is making people lazy at the same time making them poor. The only other thing rivaling the features of lottery that I can think of is drug, but at least drug dealers can make a fortune while lottery is not even deal-able.

-Hey dude, I’ve got some top-notch pure scratchers, wanna get some? Highly likely to win.

-Well, if that’s the case, then why don’t you scratch them yourself?

Despite all that, people still buy lottery. Why? Partly because of these misleading ads.




Really? Burping champagne? I can burp champagne without buying lottery. I will just get really drunk with grape flavored vodka before drinking a gallon of expired soda. So what really is the odds of winning? A lousy 1 in 176  million. You have a better chance of winning an Oscar if you are in the show business, that is 1/11,500. You see Leonardo, it’s not about acting, it’s all about math. You literally have a better chance of becoming the president of the United States (1/10,000,000) than winning the lottery. Even if people do win, very often things go wrong. Look at this article published on The Atlantic.

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Winning the lottery is like a watershed for winners, things quickly went disastrous. You might argue, well, that is just so unlikely to happen to every prize winner, but bear in mind that winning the lottery is even unlikelier! So in the event of people winning the lottery, it is highly possible that these things will happen at one point.

Image from fivethirtyeight.com

Then why does lottery still exist? Here comes the ultimate excuse: funding education. But did money spent on education work? What happened? Multiple studies have shown that lottery is not helping education, and in some cases, it is worsening the situation. Let’s first look at how lottery money is allocated. While some states that have higher percentage of state funds from lottery money, the over all percentage is only around 30%, and it’s up to the states how much of that 30% percent goes to education. But according to an article published on the New York Times, and here I quote, “In some states, Michigan, Texas and Illinois, lottery dollars are pooled with other funds, making it impossible to determine how much the lottery benefits schools.” And according to O. Homer Erekson, dean of the business school at the University of Missouri, “Legislators merely substitute general revenue funds with lottery dollars so the schools don’t really gain any additional funding.” Just take a look at what happened in North Carolina and the rest of the lottery-states.

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At this point, I began to question myself: it is time for me to use dichotomy? I had been so infatuated with the idea that lottery is pure evil that perhaps I was shutting out everything good about it. So I googled “Positive cases of lottery money used on education” and let’s look at the first search result.

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It’s an academic paper, so I braced myself for an authoritative influx of positive information. But before I could even get to the body points, the abstract had given them away.

I realize banning the lottery altogether is not realistic, so I propose, and I hope you can help me vocalize this: change the game rules just a little bit by reducing the price money to a smaller percentage so that people won’t hinge on the off-chance of getting rich over night, by doing this, they’d also be also spending less money on lottery because the investment-prize ratio becomes less appealing. Plus this way, states can get more fund from lottery money so that more money can be used on education. You know what, let’s just inverse the state fund percentage with prize money percentage. Let states get 2/3 of the proceeds while winners get 30%. If one day prize winners began to complain about their situation, then they can just deal with it! Because that’s what education is dealing with now.


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