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OpinionColumnistsMike Vogel

Why we flock to the respite of the lottery

People need something to take their minds off our nation’s troubles.

A customer buys Mega Millions lottery tickets at

A customer buys Mega Millions lottery tickets at a 7-Eleven store on December 13, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Scott Olson

What a week of lottery madness! Just days after someone won Mega Millions for $1.6 billion, two people split a $688 million Powerball jackpot, with one of those tickets sold in NYC, at a Harlem deli. Hey, what are the odds?

People need something to take their minds off their and our nation’s troubles. When is it ever wrong to dream? How about when you’re being scammed?

Government run lotteries started with a noble sales pitch — this cash bonanza would provide extra funding for our children’s education. Before long, many states began sliding the windfall into their general budgets, and education across the nation is still underfunded. Surprise!

Meanwhile, the odds of winning the jackpots have become slimmer and slimmer. To put it in perspective: You are three times more likely to get killed by a vending machine, according to FoxNews.com.

But say you’re the sole winner of Mega Millions. Hooray! If you take a lump sum, you don’t get 100 percent of the jackpot. The government immediately grabs 37 percent of your winnings. But wait, there’s more. After that, you’ll pay additional taxes!

Those running the lottery know people flock to buy tickets when the big prize is astronomical. Unfortunately, they have made it even more difficult to win by increasing the number of balls in play.

On the plus side, the lottery gives people a chance to sound generous without actually doing anything. A friend told me, “If I win the jackpot, I’m going to give you $100,000.” Am I supposed to say thank you? Statistically, he has as much chance of winning as I do — and I don’t play. Gee thanks, Kevin!

In addition, it distracts people from how our nation has descended into primitive tribal warfare. The Romans called this distraction “bread and circuses.” In 2018, it’s stuffed-crust pizza and jumbo jackpots.

But someone’s got to win, so maybe I’ll buy a ticket for Wednesday’s Powerball drawing.

At the rate, things are spinning out of control on this planet, if I win the jackpot (minus taxes), I’m renting Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket and flying off to the moon. Come with me. I’ll pay your expenses with my winnings.

You’re welcome!

Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.

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