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What you need to know for 08/22/2017

Powerball, by its very definition, is irresponsible

Powerball, by its very definition, is irresponsible

The classic sucker's bet

The folks at the Lottery Division and the New York Council on Problem Gambling have teamed up to promote the concept of “responsible” gambling — just in time for tonight’s big Powerball jackpot.

As of 2 p.m. yesterday, it had reached $500 million — second largest in U.S. history for such things — and it seems likely to go even higher by the time the numbers are drawn tonight. That is, unless Americans in 42 states where Powerball is played suddenly acquire a keener sense of responsibility than lottery officials expect, and stop buying so many tickets. Don’t bet on that.

We’ll go along with the idea of promoting “responsible” gambling when it comes to most games of chance, and even ones where skill is involved, but it requires a pretty substantial leap of faith when it comes to Powerball, with odds of 175 million to 1.

And just how long are 175 million-to-1 odds? They used to joke that you’d have a 50 times greater chance of getting hit by lightning, but that’s not enough anymore. Yesterday’s Associated Press story quoted an Emory University math professor as saying the odds of your doctor predicting the precise day, hour, minute and second of your baby being born were “at least” 100 times greater than hitting the Powerball.

We don’t know where mathematicians come up with such stuff (another beaut was that you’d be 25 more times likely to win an Academy Award), but we also can’t conceive of anyone concerned about the evils of compulsive gambling using the words “responsible” and “Powerball” in the same sentence.

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