Powerball Payout Reaches Over $1 Billion: Psychology Behind Why People Play The Lottery

With the Powerball lottery payout now reaching new heights, at over $1 billion dollars, a vast majority of the American public is scurrying to their local gas station to buy tickets. The odds of winning are less than one in 292 million, so why are so many people obsessed with Powerball tickets? The answer comes down to one word: hope.

In 2011, Wired examined the psychology behind playing the lottery. The consensus was that most people were willing to give up $3 for a ticket, in exchange for a few minutes of hope that they might win, despite understanding the dire odds.

The psychology of the Powerball becomes even more irrational when you consider that statistically those with the least amount of money spend the most on lottery tickets.

Wired contributor Jonah Lehrer summed it up best, “Not surprisingly, those without lots of money are more interested in such escapist pleasures… On average, households that make less than $12,400 a year spend 5 percent of their income on lotteries.”

CNN also examined the Powerball phenomenon in 2012 by interviewing human behavior expert Dr. Wendy Walsh.

Dr. Walsh succinctly said, “We have the Cinderella complex — there’s a fairy godmother who’s going to come in and save us. It doesn’t faze them because they’re in love with hope.”

People line up to buy Powerball tickets.

Statistically speaking, you’re far more likely to die from a bee sting than you are to win the Powerball lottery. Of course, not everyone is so quick to rush out and buy a ticket.

An executive at Eagle Savers, a service that buys back used text books, CDs and other items, offered this word of advice, “People would be far better off taking the time they spend purchasing Powerball tickets on clearing out their old junk and selling it online or at a pawn shop. Not only would it be productive, but they’d make (and save) money in the process. I understand the concept of having hope, but it’s just not logical.”

But if hope is all some people have to cling to, more power to them. As the current Powerball Jackpot sits at a record-breaking $1.3 billion, people took to Twitter to daydream about what they would do with their winnings, if they were the lucky winner. Several people joked that they would purchase the Playboy Mansion with the winnings, amidst news that the infamous party place would soon be put up for sale.

Meanwhile, other people became downright brutal about the Powerball topic.

Whether or not someone will win the $1.3 billion jackpot or if the Powerball payout will continue to climb higher, remains to be seen. But eventually, at some point, there will be a winner.

Which begs the question, what should the lucky winner do with their Powerball earnings?

According to an expert from Today Money, the first thing you should do comes down to common sense: Sign the Powerball ticket and put it in a very secure place.

In addition to using common sense, experts urge that lottery winners should not cash in their ticket right away; but should take their time and consult a team of experts before going for the money. Most states have a grace period for winners to claim their earnings; most are around 180 days to claim a winning ticket.

Logic aside, good luck if you purchased a Powerball ticket. And an extra good luck handling your windfall if you end up being the lucky winner.

Why do people play the lottery?