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13 January 2016

No, the $1.5bn Powerball jackpot couldn’t solve poverty in America

Because maths. 

By Barbara Speed

Tonight’s Powerball draw in the US offers the chance to win an estimated $1.5bn, making it the world’s largest ever lottery jackpot. There are long queues outside stores selling tickets, and Australians can now buy tickets, too.

The draw’s ubiquity has also spawned its own meme. The image below, which has received hundreds of thousands of likes on Facebook and is also circulating on Twitter and Tumblr, argues that were the lottery jackpot evenly distributed, it could “solve poverty” across the US:

First, the most obvious error: $4.3bn divided by 300m does not equal $4.33m. It equals $4.33. A nice cup of coffee each, maybe, but not enough to “solve poverty”.

Second, the Powerball lottery is run by a non-profit organisation, which ploughs its profits back into projects approved by state governments (similar to how lottery funding works in the UK). So in a way, the lottery does help solve poverty in some areas – though not by evenly distributing winnings. 

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The “Philipe Andolini” quoted in the meme, incidentally, hasn’t been located by any media outlets, but, as one Reddit user put it, whoever made the meme is “either the biggest dumbass, or the biggest troll”. 

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