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The Almighty Buck Stats

Massachusetts Lottery Broken 376

Posted by Soulskill
from the math-nerds-win-again dept.
wiredog sends in a story about how knowledge of lottery rules and statistics has allowed opportunistic players in Massachusetts to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on tickets while being assured of a massive payoff. Quoting: "Because of a quirk in the rules, when the jackpot reaches roughly $2 million and no one wins, payoffs for smaller prizes swell dramatically, which statisticians say practically assures a profit to anyone who buys at least $100,000 worth of tickets. During these brief periods — 'rolldown weeks' in gambling parlance — a tiny group of savvy bettors, among them highly trained computer scientists from MIT and Northeastern University, virtually take over the game. ... Srivastava calculated that a gambler who bought 200,000 Cash WinFall tickets during four rolldown weeks in a year would win enough to cover the $1.6 million investment and earn a profit of $240,000 to $1.4 million — without ever winning the jackpot."
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Massachusetts Lottery Broken

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  • Wait, what? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jeng (926980) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:14PM (#36951004)

    I thought the lottery was for those who were bad at math?

    • by Thud457 (234763) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:19PM (#36951064) Homepage Journal
      Apparently Massachusetts thought that meant people who are bad at math should be running the lottery. A critical mistake in the state that's home to Stanford.
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:22PM (#36951124)

      Only for those who are bad at math if you ignore the fact that $100,000,000 is worth much more than 100,000,000 times $1; at least to people's mind's. That is, $1 has very nearly zero utility, while anything above a certain amount (say $10,000,000) has nearly infinite utility. Even a poor person isn't going to significantly miss $3 per week, but a large multimillion dollar payoff properly managed will leave a person set for life (or buy whatever a person could want for a limited amount of time). And it makes sense, the error is in trying to assign static value to a given value of money while the human brain (correctly) doesn't do that.

      • by Rising Ape (1620461) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:25PM (#36951158)

        It's really the other way round though. A jump in income of 100,000 to 200,000 is worth much less in terms of quality of life than from 10,000 to 20,000.

        • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:36PM (#36951296)

          A jump in income of 100,000 to 200,000 is worth much less in terms of quality of life than from 10,000 to 20,000.

          Were it not for punitive income tax, an extra $100k a year on my salary would allow me to comfortably retire after a decade; an extra $10k certainly wouldn't. I don't believe lottery winnings are taxed, so a $1 million win would be enough for me to never have to work at anything I didn't want to do for the rest of my life.

          • by mjperson (160131) <mjperson@mit.edu> on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:43PM (#36951398)

            You don't believe lottery winnings are taxed? Why would you think that? It's income, no?

          • by pjt33 (739471) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:44PM (#36951404)

            Are you in your 50s or planning to move to somewhere where the average wage is about $10k?

            • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:05PM (#36951726) Journal

              Living without rent or a mortgage to worry about would give a vast amount of flexibility. Spending $300k-500k of that million on a nice house would still leave you with a very comfortable amount to live on, and outgoings that basically only need to cover food and fuel - it might not keep you in Ferraris and hookers for long, but for someone whose wishes simply stretch to a secure, relaxed life, an extra million would be plenty.

              A high school grad can only expect [about.com] to earn $1.2million in their lifetime, and even someone with a masters degree only averages $2.5m. When you consider the extra investment opportunities that come with a rapid influx of cash like that, rather than a lifetime trickle, and that the GP said it would be nice on top of their current salary, I'd say it'd be a fine way to retire.

              • by pjt33 (739471) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:14PM (#36951850)

                I interpreted "to never have to work at anything I didn't want to do" as meaning not on top of current salary. My calculation is on the basis that while Vimes' law is in your favour - buy a house without having to pay loads for cumulative interest - and you can probably get a reasonable interest rate, it's unlikely to be more than about 1% above inflation. which means that your $500k left over after the house is giving you $5k a year for food, fuel, maintaining car and house, holidays. If you're within a decade of retiring anyway you're probably not too worried about using more and depleting the capital, but if you're in your early 30s you don't want to look a fool having to get back into the workplace in 20 years time.

                • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:26PM (#36952010) Journal

                  I read that line more as "if I don't want to do it, I can tell the boss to suck it without worrying about where the next month's rent will come from"; in either case, I see where you're coming from, and I'm sure I'll get more blasé about money once I leave the "impoverished student" stage of my life and become a decently paid member of the evil corporate empire, I was just surprised at how dismissive people are of a lump sum almost the size of what a lot of people can expect to make in a lifetime.

          • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:48PM (#36951458) Homepage

            Lottery winning are totally taxed. They get you coming and going.

          • by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:51PM (#36951502)

            In the short term however, going from $100,000 per year to $200,000 will typically mean that you can get a house with a pool instead of without, can get the nice 26-foot boat that you wanted instead of the 19-footer, and that you can drive a Jaguar instead of a really nice Honda.

            Going from $10k to $20k typically means that you're no longer living on the street boiling ramen noodles over a fire-barrel.

            Or as Chris Rock put it (paraphrased): "Poor people should get prenups, not rich people. Think about it: if you make $30 million per year and your wife wants half, then it's not that big a deal. But if you make $30 thousand, and your wife wants half, you just might have to kill her.".

          • by swb (14022) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:02PM (#36951690)

            Yes, lottery winnings are taxed.

            Even if they weren't, how would you live the rest of your life on $1,000,000? Even never touching the principal, you might turn $35-40k a year from a tax-free bond fund, assuming you get a decent return. Assuming you suck it up hard and keep working for the next 5 years and plow that back into the principal, you're still praying for good years to get you to $50k.

            If your house is paid for, you have no health issues and your property taxes are zero you might be able to sit in place, but it's gonna be more "hood rich" than even all that comfortable. Forget traveling or any meaningful upgrades to your lifestyle.

            Really, to live a comfortable lifestyle you need to look 5 to 10 million dollars as a starting point -- and that assumes you live somewhat modestly on the dividends and plow some of it back into the principal on a regular basis so inflation doesn't kill you -- that gives you something like $250-500 per year in cash.

            • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:30PM (#36952066) Journal

              Depends what your aspirations are - as soon as the mortgage is paid off, you can stop worrying about money, which would be a reasonable milestone for a lot of people. It might not be "never work again" territory, but a couple of hundred thousand to buy a decent place to live suddenly saves you a huge amount in long-term interest, allows a lot more of your monthly salary to go into savings, and basically buys you the freedom to do things like packing in your job and backpacking around Asia for a few months without worrying about returning to a bank auction going on on your front lawn. If you've got a million, that's the house paid off plus a good amount in the bank to cover food, fuel, and modest travel for as long as it would take you to get bored of not working - not lavish, sure, but comfortable and relaxed, and able to come and go from jobs and education without ever worrying about where the cash is coming from.

              I wouldn't try to retire if I got a million handed to me, but it would be enough to change my life pretty drastically. The stability to live where I liked, take any job I liked without really worrying about salary or hours, and the security to quit any time without counting down until I couldn't pay rent any more, all make me go misty eyed with longing from my current position as an impoverished student.

            • by Plunky (929104) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:35PM (#36952114)

              Even if they weren't, how would you live the rest of your life on $1,000,000?

              Well now, I'm not greedy for a massive house in the suburbs with a pool and a ferrari, so would buy a reasonable place to live for myself, plus a few small apartments that I would rent out and live off the income

          • by iamhassi (659463) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:25PM (#36951986) Journal
            Lottery winnings have about a 50% tax in the US. Thats why all the news articles state "blah blah won $100 million in the lottery, or about $46 million after taxes."
      • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:47PM (#36951444) Homepage

        I agree, and will often spend a buck or two on lottery tickets for that reason. The problem is that people who are poor will often spend more than they can afford on lottery tickets in the mistaken belief that they are significantly effecting their odds of winning. Spending $50 or $100 a week on lottery tickets costs money that could be spent on other things, and doesn't really have any noticeable affect on your odds of winning. Even spending $100,000 on tickets doesn't have a statistically significant effect really, except under the special circumstances that Massachusetts has created here.

        • by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:08PM (#36951770)

          Spending $50 or $100 a week on lottery tickets costs money that could be spent on other things, and doesn't really have any noticeable affect on your odds of winning.

          Are you trying to say that buying 100 $l lottery tickets has no better odds of winning than buying one? I think you are wrong. The math says so, too.

          To make it easy, let's say each ticket has a 1/10 chance of winning. One ticket, your odds are 1:10. Two tickets, your chance of "not losing" ( .9 times .9) are 81%, so winning is now not quite 2:10. Three tickets, 1-0.9^3, four tickets 1-0.9^4, etc. This number asymptotically approaches one. That's for one winner out of N.

          What are the odds of winning twice out of N? If you only buy one ticket, ZERO. If you buy two tickets, then (0.1*0.1) or 1:100. It only gets better the more tickets you buy, and again, asymptotically approaches one.

          So yes, buying more tickets increases the odds of winning overall.

          Even spending $100,000 on tickets doesn't have a statistically significant effect really, except under the special circumstances that Massachusetts has created here.

          The only reason Mass. rules has any effect at $100,000 is that it also has an effect at $1. If the payouts go up for every win, then even the $1 player benefits, just not as much as the $100,000 player.

          • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:27PM (#36952022) Homepage

            I am aware of how statistics work. It has an effect, just not a statistically notable effect. Certainly odds of 1 out of 7809327498375098375987342509837098 are worse than odds of 50 out of 7809327498375098375987342509837098, but both events are so unlikely as to be impossible. If you're a person who has barely enough money for food every week, you're statistically not much worse off spending a buck a week on lottery tickets than spending $50, and the other $49 can go to other things.

            And yes, the Mass rules have the same affect whether you have 1 ticket or 100,000 tickets, but at around 100,000 ticket it becomes statistically likely you'll make a profit. At one ticket it still isn't likely.

    • by Rich0 (548339) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:27PM (#36951200) Homepage

      Well, no, the lottery benefits people who are good at math, at the expense of those who are bad at math.

      Just, in most states they try to have people who are good at math be the ones DESIGNING the lottery...

    • by timeOday (582209) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:29PM (#36951222)
      Actually no math is necessary - all people need to know is that during "rolldown week," the expected return of playing the game is positive. This is just as true for people who spend $3 as for people who spend $300,000. So I think it is debatable whether this is "broken" at all. It's probably not something a private company would do; then again they might have loss leaders sometimes.
      • by petershank (463008) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:36PM (#36951304)

        during "rolldown week," the expected return of playing the game is positive. This is just as true for people who spend $3 as for people who spend $300,000.

        The article said otherwise:

        Mark Kon, a professor of math and statistics at Boston University, calculated that a bettor buying even $10,000 worth of tickets would run a significant risk of losing more than they won during the July rolldown week. But someone who invested $100,000 in Cash WinFall tickets had a 72 percent chance of winning

    • by ultranova (717540) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:39PM (#36951346)

      I thought the lottery was for those who were bad at math?

      Only if you're rich. If you're poor, the small chance of winning * the utility of getting rich is far greater than the great chance of losing * the small utility of the price of a lottery ticket, thus making the total utility greater than zero.

      The utility (value) of money is an s-curve that asymptomatically but monotonically nears a fixed value in both extreme debt and extreme wealth.

    • by vlm (69642) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:08PM (#36951780)

      I thought the lottery was for those who were bad at math?

      Actually, they are mostly used by "poor" people for money laundering. By "poor" I mean people who have no W-2 or 1099 source of income, yet have rather large cash income lifestyles.

      All you need is enough lotto ticket winnings to prove to the IRS you are declaring all your income, based on your lifestyle. Its really not all that expensive.

      As a grocery store clerk decades ago, I sold a couple hundred dollars per day of lotto tickets for cash to a somewhat disreputable person. I never asked, and he never said... But he must have been selling a large fraction of a million per year for his profits to be that high.

  • by Toe, The (545098) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:15PM (#36951008)

    1. Buy $100,000+ in lottery tickets
    2. ???
    3. Profit! ...but for real.

    • by BSAtHome (455370) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:04PM (#36951714)

      We do know the ??? step:
      1. Buy $100,000+ in lottery tickets
      2. Wait for bad statistics to become really bad
      3. Profit! ..for the rich.

      • by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:24PM (#36951976)

        2. Wait for bad statistics to become really bad

        Statistics is a tool. The statistics are being used by the state to make sure that neither the lottery jackpot nor the money being taken in grow to a huge number. In that use, the statistics are perfectly sound. Raise the payouts on lower level winners, you pay out more money.

        Since the payouts go up, the system benefits low volume players too. A winner is a winner -- and during down weeks pays Joe Plumber just as much as Martha Deeppockets.

        Even the number of winners stays the same. Every week that Martha buys 200000 tickets, she'll get, on average, the same number of winners, and those statistics apply to Joe, too.

        The only difference is that the rate of payout exceeds the odds of winning, and that's by design. You can't call it "bad statistics" when the statistics are doing what they were intended to do.

        Do you also object to the phenomenon of massive lottery play when the jackpots reach huge numbers? You know, the fact that many more people buy tickets (both "more people" and "more tickets") when Powerball reaches $200 million. This is nothing different. When the pot exceeds the pot odds, betting is good.

    • by Thelasko (1196535) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:19PM (#36951920) Journal
      Actually, it sounds like the formula is:
      Odds: 91,000:1
      Pay out:128,000:1
      As long as you buy more than 91,000 tickets, you stand a favorable chance at turning a profit.

      Disclaimer: I am not a statistician
    • by Idbar (1034346) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:31PM (#36952070)
      You seem to be missing an important part. Make sure they all are different! I'm afraid you wouldn't be making much if you buy them all the same! (and by today standards, I'm positive someone could just do that) ;)
  • by Mikkeles (698461) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:15PM (#36951012)

    is good for them!

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:19PM (#36951080) Journal
    Guys, you were all laughing when I bought the lottery tickets from Dogbert 50% off. He assured me that the odds of winning are just one one millionth less, but the price was 50%, count them full fifty percent off. You guys were taunting me for buying the previous day's tickets. Ha! Who is laughing now?
  • Oh I see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:20PM (#36951084) Homepage
    I see now. So as long as people have bad ideas about statistics it is ok. Believing some numbers are lucky is ok. Ignorant people saying things like "I haven't won and I've been playing for years, I have to win soon" is ok. Having people believe that God told them to buy a lottery ticket is ok. But when one someone actually has a chance to be correct about having a chance to win and make a profit then it isn't ok. Why don't the governments stop pretending. The lottery is intended on a tax for those who can't do math. And most of those people can't do math because the government schools failed to teach them. The government wants to use a lottery so it can get extra money from poor, uneducated people while pretending to have a progressive tax system which doesn't hurt the poor.
    • by the_humeister (922869) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:25PM (#36951164)

      Quiet you! I just bought $600k worth of tickets in this game!!!

    • Re:Oh I see (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rubycodez (864176) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:30PM (#36951238)
      that is false, plenty of people understand the math perfectly but play anyway. You don't understand the nature of three-quarters the people you meet (that's about the fraction of people who gamble at every place I've ever worked, and we're talking college educated people of median income of $85K currently)
      • Re:Oh I see (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:01PM (#36951678)

        Indeed. I've failed to see the "tax on the people who are bad at math" argument. Yes, the odds of winning are astronomically high. They are however, non-zero, and someone DOES eventually cash out on the jackpots. Deciding to take a gamble isn't stupid so long as you know and accept the odds.

        If you go obsessive over it (ie, dumping loads of money into the lottery as a financial "plan"), then sure, but myself for example - my state has had the lottery for about 10 years now. In those 10 years, I've bought about 8 or so lottery tickets. So I'm spending less than a dollar per year on average. Still haven't won, and don't think I realistically ever will, but it's not too much of a financial burden to gamble away at a long shot (yes, a really, really LONG shot).

        Basically, I go by the advice my dad taught me while playing cards - expect that you're going to lose every bet you ever make. If you're not ok with that outcome, then don't make the bet in the first place.

        • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:45PM (#36952266) Journal

          Basically, I go by the advice my dad taught me while playing cards - expect that you're going to lose every bet you ever make. If you're not ok with that outcome, then don't make the bet in the first place.

          Sound advice. And the same goes for insurance, which is just a different form of gambling despite the name. Don't gamble with cash you cannot afford to lose, i.e. insure risks you cannot carry financially. But self-insure the rest; the same smug guys going on about lotteries being a tax on people bad at math are often happy to have insured *everything* down to their cell phones and computers. Just remember: insurance companies are just like casinos: they're not charities.

    • Re:Oh I see (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:55PM (#36951566) Homepage

      Lotteries are played by most people as entertainment, not as investments.

    • by cyberchondriac (456626) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:34PM (#36952096) Journal

      Why don't the governments stop pretending. The lottery is intended on a tax for those who can't do math. And most of those people can't do math because the government schools failed to teach them. The government wants to use a lottery so it can get extra money from poor, uneducated people while pretending to have a progressive tax system which doesn't hurt the poor.

      I can't believe you're equating the lottery with a tax. Lotteries are entirely optional. It may be more appealing to those who don't see any other recourse for getting more money, but it's not required by law.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:20PM (#36951096)

    I used to code slot machines, hence staying anonymous. At some point, a different point for each bank of slots, the pay tables will reach over 100% payout if the jackpot is large enough. It was well known that by that point, professional gamblers and their buddies would squat on each machine tied to the progressive payout and play them until one of them hit the jackpot. The casinos didn't care, nor should they, because the overall pay table was still 95% or 90%. In other words they still made their money on the masses. But if you as an individual watch closely enough, in the short term you can make money.

    Somewhat unrelated, there are also video poker machines that if played "perfectly" will earn you about $8 / hour statistically, although you may have to put in considerable hours before seeing the profit. Again it all depends on how the pay table is structured.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:21PM (#36951112)

    I'm all for freedom to live your life the way you want and all that. But for the *state* to openly exploit its citizens with these parasitic lotteries makes my stomach turn. Rather than raise taxes, let's exploit out poorest and dumbest citizens! Yea!!!

    Serves them right. Fucking vampires.

  • by voss (52565) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:28PM (#36951214)

    As long as there is at least the appearance of fairness(even assuming long odds), everything is Ok.
    When people start believing the game is rigged (whether true or false) they
    refuse to play anymore.

  • by papasui (567265) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:33PM (#36951268) Homepage
    Is that the lottery officials know full well that it's broke but they don't care.
  • by tekrat (242117) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:34PM (#36951274) Homepage Journal

    Standard Operating Procedure: To make money, you gotta spend money. And those with a lot of money tend to make more money.

    If you've got the 1.6 million to invest, chances are that you're *already* smart enough to know how to make more money with that money.

    Unless of course, you're investing in Chinese Shell Companies set up to win investment before they implode.

  • by rpresser (610529) <`rpresser' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:36PM (#36951292) Homepage

    The word "Broken" in the title refers to what the lottery is, not what happened to it.

  • Winnings taxable? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jayveekay (735967) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:38PM (#36951334)

    "A lottery agent who sells tickets to the group said Tong’s Fortunelot invested $200,000 at his store in May and won $280,000."

    The $200,000 investment would presumably be after tax money. The 280,000 dollars in winnings would be taxable. At the Bush Tax Cut marginal rate of 35% that would leave 182,000, for a net loss of $18,000. Presumably the bettors must also be finding a way to game the tax system as well.

    • by Sunshinerat (1114191) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:53PM (#36951530)

      The expenses on tickets that did not win are tax deductable.
      So I guess you will still come ahead, as you have bought plenty of 'loser' tickets.

    • by mcmonkey (96054) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:54PM (#36951552) Homepage

      Loses and expenses can be taken against winnings. I'm not sure if that includes the cost of the winning ticket, but let's assume not.

      If the average winning ticket is worth $1000 (a number I just pulled out of my butt after having RTFA in the paper yesterday; I don't recall if it gives an actual average pay-out per ticket), $280,000 means 280 winning tickets. Which also means 99,720 losing tickets.

      At $2 per ticket, they pay taxes on $280,000 - 199,440 = 80,560.

      Basically, they're only paying taxes on profit, not income, just like any other business.

      Since when is playing by the same rules set out for everyone else "finding a way to game the system"?

    • by mjperson (160131) <mjperson@mit.edu> on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:55PM (#36951578)

      You pay taxes on the $80,000, not the full $280,000, assuming you kept the receipts for the original $200,000 spent so you can take it as a deduction.

    • Re:Winnings taxable? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Thelasko (1196535) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:06PM (#36951742) Journal
      A small detail from the fine article notes that all of these players buy the tickets on behalf of a corporation which they wholly own. Corporations pay taxes based on profits. Simply put, revenue minus expenses. They are likely writing off the cost of the tickets as expenses.

      That would be $280,000 revenue - $200,000 expenses - $80,000x35%=$52,000 for three days of work.
      • by cdrguru (88047) on Monday August 01, 2011 @06:19PM (#36953392) Homepage

        If you hang around people with serious gambling addictions you would know that this isn't just some corporate tax dodge. If you have proper documentation about gambling wins and losses you, and individual, can deduct your gambling losses.

        This means that if you drop $50,000 at the craps table one night you can indeed deduct that against your $100,000 winnings the next night. I do not believe gambling losses can offset any non-gambling income.

        Of course, you need to have all of this properly documented. It generally isn't all that hard to sort out how much you leave at the casino, though. Proving it make take some work with an accountant, however.

    • by Aidtopia (667351) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:10PM (#36951796) Homepage Journal
      You can deduct your gambling wagers from your gambling winnings for tax purposes. I'm not a tax person, and this is not tax advice, but I know some gamblers who've dealt with the tax implications winning.
  • by mathimus1863 (1120437) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:48PM (#36951454)
    You can find statistical holes in casino games, too. The difference is, the state doesn't kick you out if you win too much.
  • by John.P.Jones (601028) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:50PM (#36951486)

    While playing the lottery is for people bad at math, designing the lottery is for people good at math and if you are very good you let it be rigged in a non-obvious statistical sense. A very serious look needs to be had at those who designed this system.

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:22PM (#36951946)
      Well the winners were able to win by bending a few rules. To win in this system, a large number of purchases have to be made. In the case of the couple, they purchased approximately 250,000 tickets. But to do so, some of the rules that were bent were the store were kept open outside normal hours for them specifically, a machine that was only to be run by a store employee was run by one of the couple, and tickets were purchased for the couple when they were not there. If these rules had not been bent, the could would have purchased fewer tickets due to practical limits and their payout would have been less.
  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Monday August 01, 2011 @03:57PM (#36951608)
    Do they get to keep it, or do they get it all taken back in Federal and state taxes? It has been pretty obvious that these games that accumulate value based on lack of previous winners will pay out larger amounts, but the taxes on the win and the chances of having to split the jackpot have to be taken into account when considering when to play. It is interesting that Mass came up with a way to increase the value of the lesser prizes, that seems a flawed design that would keep those prizes higher as long as the jackpot remains unclaimed. So poor a design that one wanders if it wasn't intentional to let the game designers have a chance to skim off some of the money.
  • I found it interesting that the article states that there is "almost no chance of losing" if you buy enough tickets, but that's not a 100% guarantee. It will just be a matter of time before someone plays the odds and that unlikely event of losing money happens.
    • by OzPeter (195038) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:11PM (#36951828)

      I found it interesting that the article states that there is "almost no chance of losing" if you buy enough tickets, but that's not a 100% guarantee. It will just be a matter of time before someone plays the odds and that unlikely event of losing money happens.

      Yeah .. but then you employ my patented scheme .. the next time you bet *double* the amount .. so you make up for the losses! Play that way and you can't lose!!!!

  • by sunking2 (521698) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:08PM (#36951768)
    It'd only be broken if the state lost money. Which it doesn't. Total payout is never more than the state collects. The only thing being trickled down is what it would dole out in winnings. As the article says, these people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars lost their shirts when one of the bulk sales happened to hit the jackpot and it wasn't them, starving the lower winnings of their cash.
  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:08PM (#36951772)

    Every jackpotting lottery reaches a point at which there is positive expectation in playing. Of couse in practice they it might never happen, but if the jackpot doesn't go off for long the payout starts to beat the odds.

    The strange "pay the jackpot out on non-jackpot prizes instead of increasing forever" rule here makes it happen more often.

    Though note this isn't a lock, they can lose money if too many people end up with winning tickets. Either because someone else actually hit the jackpot or because lots of people tried the buy hundreds of thousands of tickets at the same time.

  • by Relayman (1068986) on Monday August 01, 2011 @04:33PM (#36952090)
    This is only slightly different than playing PowerBall when the grand prize pool goes over $195,249,054. When the grand prize pool goes over that amount (based on the odds), your expected value for a $1 ticket goes over $1. Now, granted, even if you invested $100,000, you wouldn't be guaranteed of winning the grand prize and that's the difference with this game; the odds improve if the grand prize isn't won.

    So essentially, I'm going to look for situations where my expected value is higher than the price of the ticket and place my bets when that happens.

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