The Mega Millions jackpot is $1.6 billion. We did the math to see if you should buy a ticket.

  • The Mega Millions jackpot is now $1.6 billion after Friday’s drawing with no winners.
  • Though that’s a pretty big prize, working through the math of how lotteries work suggests that buying a ticket is not a great investment.
  • The low probability of winning and the risk of splitting the prize in a big, highly covered game mean you’d probably lose money.
  • READ MORE: Here are the winning numbers from the $1 billion Mega Millions jackpot drawn October 19.

Andy Kiersz, Business Insider, October 22, 2018

How Mega Millions changed the game so everyone gets rich — except you

[A] recent rule change has made it harder for anyone to win the estimated $450 million jackpot (or $281 million if you opt for the cash buyout).

Mega Millions (and Powerball, whose Saturday-night jackpot now stands at $570 million) discovered that when the jackpot grows to an absurdly high figure, even skeptical players will buy tickets (New York Lottery’s commission tagline: “Hey, You Never Know”). Kelly Tabor, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Lottery, called them “jackpot chasers” in August.

Tabor also said customers wanted more chances to win smaller prizes. In response, both Powerball and Mega Millions tweaked their formulas.

Reducing the number of balls for the first five numbers increases the chances of winning a smaller prize. But raising the number of Mega balls makes it harder to win the jackpot.

“Starting jackpots will more than double from $15 million to $40 million, and jackpots will grow faster overall. There will be better odds to win $1 million prizes and higher secondary prizes,” the multi-state lottery said in a release.

Alex Horton, Washington Post, January 5, 2018

Low Tire Pressure Leads To A Lucky Lottery Win

A New York man noticed that the air in his tires was pretty low. So he stopped at a Stewart’s Shops convenience store to fill them up. He ended up going inside and buying a lottery ticket. And wouldn’t know it? That guy, 19-year-old Anthony Iavarone, won a million bucks with that $10 scratch-off card. Iavarone says, at first, he didn’t believe he was the winner. So he had his dad double check. Yep, it was true. Luck be a lady but also a deflated car tire.

Rachel Martin, NPR, July 3, 2017

Powerball: Somebody’s gotta win, eventually

Despite widespread acceptance of state-backed lotteries, when Powerball ticket sales declined in all but four states and sales nationwide dropped by 19 percent, the Multi-State Lottery Association decided it was time to do something.

Industry insiders attributed the decline to “jackpot fatigue,” which meant that casual players bought tickets only when a huge jackpot was up for grabs.

The resolution: The association looked at rule changes to address the falling revenue problem and implemented them in 2015….This change meant the overall odds of winning any prize improved, going from 1 in 32 to 1 in 25, but the odds of winning a jackpot would drop from 1 in 175 million to 1 in 292 million.

Psychologists and behavioral economists, however, have long known that the perceived value of a lottery ticket may be quite different from expected value.

Manel Baucells and Gerry Yemen, Washington Post, August 23, 2017

Indian American Prof. wins $100,000 lottery jackpot, makes himself role model in probability class

An Indian American professor of statistics at Fairfield University, Nicholas Kapoor, 26, has made himself a role model teaching probability to students in his class, after winning a $100,000 lottery jackpot.

Kapoor teaches statistics at Fairfield University and had lectured his students about probability just prior to his win. He is now using himself as a real-life example in class. He buys a lottery ticket almost weekly despite what he said his undergraduate probability professor taught him.

“He’d always show us that you shouldn’t play the lottery because the odds of winning are so small,” Kapoor told ABC News. “My counterargument was always, ‘Yeah, but somebody has to win.’ “And he would say, ‘Yeah, but that’s not going to be you.’”

The American Bazaar, November 17, 2016

MGM National Harbor opens amid a perilous casino glut and big shift in gambling culture

MGM Resorts International opens its $1.4 billion ­casino at National Harbor on Thursday night amid jackpot-level excitement and expectations for Maryland’s final and glitziest gambling palace.

Soaring 24 stories over the Potomac River and spanning five city blocks, the gleaming glass complex promises to deliver Las Vegas-style gambling, hundreds of millions in tax revenue and 4,000 new jobs.

But as thousands of people stream into MGM National Harbor for the first time, there is serious concern among industry analysts and fiscal watchdogs that Maryland and other states desperate for tax dollars have oversaturated the East Coast with casinos.

MGM National Harbor, just off the Capital Beltway near the Wilson Bridge, is Maryland’s sixth casino, with two others about an hour’s drive up Interstate 95 in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore. From Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, there are dozens more. At least seven additional casinos are to open by the end of 2018.

The problem, experts say, is that opening more casinos does not necessarily create more gamblers. Gallup surveys dating to 1996 show that the number of U.S. casino-goers has fluctuated between 24 percent and 30 percent of the population even as the number of states with casinos has swelled to 40.

Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, December 7, 2016

How much do you want to bet Trump says …? Vegas bookies are setting the odds in tonight’s debate.

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 18: Jimmy Vaccaro, legendary bookie, under the sign that South Point casino in Las Vegas that shows he thinks Clinton is now the strong favorite. He has moved up her chances since a video went viral that showed Trump making lewd comments about forcing himself sexually on women. (Photo by Mary Jordan/The Washington Post)

If Donald Trump says the word “rigged” five times or more during tonight’s debate, bookies will be paying out. Oddsmakers are even taking bets on whether the presidential candidates will shake hands.

Gambling on politics is forbidden in the United States, but informal betting still goes on in this city that is all about the odds.

And offshore gambling operations are reporting a surge in wagers not only on who will be the next U.S. president, but even what the point spread will be in Ohio.

Mary Jordan, Washington Post, October 19, 2016

The Billion-Dollar Jackpot: Engineered to Drain Your Wallet

If you’ve noticed that colossal lottery winnings are becoming almost common this year, it’s no accident. Four of the 10 biggest jackpots in United States history have already occurred in 2016, an engineered outcome intended to generate mind-bogglingly big winners.

That’s thrilling if you are the rare winner of hundreds of millions of dollars. But whether it’s a good thing for scores of millions of other people who play government-sponsored lottery games is highly questionable, as a close look at the numbers reveals.

What is immediately evident, though, is that the high frequency of enormous jackpots results from skillful planning, says Salil Mehta, an independent statistician. “This was deliberate,” Mr. Mehta says. “The jackpots are growing very rapidly, and at a certain point when the jackpot rises into the hundreds of millions of dollars, there is a buzz, and people start betting much more.”

Jeff Somer, New York Times, August 12, 2016

Crash-Landing Survivor Wins Sweepstakes Prize

Good morning. I’m Steve Inskeep with the story of a very lucky man, Mohammed Basheer, who works in Dubai. This month, he made a lucky escape. He was on a plane that crash-landed in Dubai, and he got out of that burning plane and then got lucky again. He bought a ticket in a sweepstakes sponsored by the duty-free shops at Dubai’s famous airport and won $1 million. Says he’ll use that money to support his family back home in India while he keeps working in an auto body shop. 

NPR, August 11, 2016

Strange betting odds, prop bets at The Championships, Wimbledon

Strange betting odds, prop bets at The Championships, Wimbledon

What is Wimbledon without the strange prop bets? Well, it’s definitely not as fun, that’s for sure. The wacky prop bets are what makes it stand out compared to other Grand Slams. Here is the list of prop bets bellow from bookie William Hill:

  1. Even: Any player to be asked to change as their clothing does not comply with rules
  2. 8-1: Any player cautioned for excessive grunting.
  3. 8-1: Full day of matches rained out, not including Center Court
  4. 10-1: No rainfall during Wimbledon
  5. 16-1: Temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher recorded during Wimbledon
  6. 33-1: Official caterers to run out of champagne or strawberries
  7. 250-1: Snowfall during The Championships

Noel John Alberto, VAVEL (International sports newspaper), June 25, 2016