Should I enter the lottery’s Thanksgiving Day Raffle? My odds aren’t great, but aren’t they better in this game, since they only sell a limited number of tickets? I’m feeling lucky!
One of the slogans for Oregon Lottery games is “When you play, Oregon wins,” which sounds great until you realize Oregon is actually your opponent. One wonders how a Vegas casino would do with the slogan, “When you play, Caesars Palace wins!”
Still, I can understand your temptation. Compared to the willful opacity of most lottery games, which feel like confusedly handing your money to a mean-tempered little man and watching him run far, far away, the raffle seems tantalizingly straightforward: 250,000 $10 tickets! A $1 million prize! Step right up!
Unfortunately, the only thing straightforward about this bet is its authors’ frank confidence in your stupidity (a confidence I admittedly share, but our government should be more charitable). With the smaller, ancillary prizes factored in, the average return per dollar on the raffle is 52 cents.
The average payout for other lottery games is 64 cents on the dollar. Video crack pays out at 93 percent (though if that sounds like an OK deal, please allow me take 7 percent of what’s in your wallet 200 times in a row).
Given that the worst lottery payout allowed by law is 50 percent, it’s pretty clear the raffle is one of the shittiest deals the lottery has to offer, which is saying something.
Accordingly, my suggestion to you is to take that $10 and send it to a mean-tempered little man named me. Sure, I’ll probably just spend it on hookers and blow, but there’s a chance—a chance!—that I’ll turn around and give you a million bucks. It’s not likely, but as they say down at lottery HQ: Hey, you never know.