Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pick 3 lottery stupidity

The NC education lottery is designed to generate funds for NC schools. Whether or not it is effective in that goal is debatable, but what it really is, is a tax on the mathematically challenged.

Exhibit A: The triangle troubleshooter (a column in the Raleigh News and Observer) reports the terrible wrong done to a poor woman who purchased 2 "Pick Three" tickets and, shock, horror, got the same number on both tickets. Oh the humanity...

The classic line from the lottery player is
"I don't have faith in this system," she said. "It doesn't make sense to me mathematically. There should be enough numbers that each ticket would be individual."

Consider the facts - its a pick THREE. There are 1000 possible numbers (assuming you allow 000), and 581,468 tickets are sold.

I propose that all proceeds from the lottery be directed to teach the citizens of this great state the basics of probability theory.

But until that happens, don't play the lottery unless a) you are severely mathematically challenged or b) you don't feel like you pay enough state tax.