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Jan 13, 2016 5:41 PM

Powerball Mania: A closer look at the history of the lottery and the odds


With the payout hitting a record $1.5 billion, a record number of people are pinning their hopes on Lady Luck in Wednesday's historic Powerball lottery drawing.

A jackpot well over a billion dollars is something lottery officials never anticipated.

"We broke the lottery. We weren't prepared with our signs - they're broken because they don't have the additional decimal point. They only go up to $999 million so a bunch around the state are dark. I can't put that many zeros on a billboard...," said Charlie McIntyre, the NH Lottery executive director

In 1964, New Hampshire became the first state in the U.S. to start a legal lottery. It was sold as a way to cut property taxes.

"It was the first actual funding source for statewide education. So for fiscal year 2011, we did $62 million [returned to] education. This past year, it was $74.4 million," McIntyre said.

But when it comes to Powerball, the reality is that the odds of winning are about 292 million to one.

David Brooks of the Concord Monitor sums up the odds in a sobering analogy, holding up the front page of the newspaper.

"Image if you just had to choose one character, one letter, one number, period, somewhere on this page. I've chosen it in advance and you have to pick it," Brooks said. "You wouldn't be able to do it."

But that's not even close to the odds of winning the Powerball lottery. You'd have to spread out three and a half years worth of newspapers and try to pick the one correct character from those.

Whether or not it's logical, eventually someone will win a lot of cash. Why not dream? That person could be you.


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