Maine lottery reaches "fair bet" status

11 December 2013

ST. JOHN VALLEY -The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot remain constant even when the amount at stake fluctuates, but the size of the jackpot has now reached the point where buying a ticket is actually a mathematical "fair bet".


Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

A "fair bet," according to formulas that Blaise Pascal developed centuries ago in the 1600s, is when the expected return on a wager is the same or greater than the cost of playing the game.

The Mega Millions website figures the probability of a person winning the jackpot is 1 out of 259,000,000. If a ticket costs $1, then a "fair bet" is when the expected return for the wager is equal to or greater than $1.

The formula is:

expected return = jackpot x probability of winning.

What does all of this mean? A "fair bet" on the Mega Millions jackpot is therefore when the jackpot is greater than $259,000,000 and a person buys one ticket. If a quarter of a billion people are playing, and only one person wins, then the person placing the wager expects to receive, on average, $1.

If the jackpot were $518 million, then a person wanting a "fair bet" should buy two tickets.

The Mega Millions jackpot is at about $400,000,000, as of December 11, so a "fair bet" at this time and for this jackpot is for a person to buy one ticket.

This calculation ignores taxes on the winnings, and all of these thoughts on what constitutes a "fair bet" don't equal guarantees.  It's all chance.  It just so happens that "chance" in this case can be worth a whole lot of dough,  It's a gamble, so please gamble responsibly.