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What is the appeal of playing the Texas Lottery?

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A man walks past a newsstand with advertisements for the Mega Millions lottery on Tuesday. The $1.537 billion Mega Millions winning lottery ticket was sold in South Carolina.
Drew Angerer
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Getty Images
A man walks past a newsstand with advertisements for the Mega Millions lottery on Tuesday. The $1.537 billion Mega Millions winning lottery ticket was sold in South Carolina.

At the time of the Jan. 18 drawing, the Mega Millions jackpot was worth $347 million, with a cash value around $239 million. What would you do if you won?

It’s fun to think about, but the odds are definitely not in your favor. There were no jackpot or second-prize winners in Texas for the previous Jan. 14 drawing.

It’s practically impossible to win the jackpot or even a significant amount of money, but millions of people continue to put dollars down on the dream of cashing in big with the right combination of numbers.

The Texas Lottery has been around since Nov. 5, 1991, when voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing ticket sales.

A 2019 report shows public education as the Texas Lottery’s biggest beneficiary after prizes are paid out, with a total contribution of more than $22 billion to the Foundation School Fund – which supports public education in Texas – since 1997. Where else does the money go? How significant are the lottery’s contributions to state programs?

How is the Texas Lottery regulated? What are the odds of winning?

What are the economics of state lotteries and “education lotteries,” specifically? Who is most likely to play regularly? Are there negative personal or societal impacts of doing so?

If you do happen to win big, what should you know and do? What are the legal implications? Can you claim large prizes anonymously? How are they taxed?

What does the lottery tell us about our brains and our ability to understand chance, probability and luck? Why do people play with such slim odds?

Guests:

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, January 19.

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