Millionaire hopefuls buy

Jeremy Taff

Minnesotans holding millions of tickets will be biting their nails anticipating the drawing of six numbers tonight.
As the Powerball jackpot soars to a world-record $175 million possible for a single winner, students and faculty are flooding retailers’ stores to buy tickets.
There are 1,950 lottery retailers across Minnesota, and officials expect to make $7.5 million in sales since Saturday night’s biweekly drawing, when no one picked a winning ticket. The 20 other states participating in the Powerball drive the jackpot to planetary proportions.
“They’re all coming in,” said Brad Mateer, owner of Harvard Market. “It’s just absolutely incredible.”
Mateer said his store turns into a haven for lottery junkies just before 9 p.m., the deadline for players to purchase tickets for tonight’s 9:59 p.m. drawing.
“I don’t need to play it. I know how it will come out,” statistics professor Charles Geyer said. “I can calculate these things.”
The odds of winning are 80.1 million to one. A person is more likely to die in a plane crash or by falling out of bed than win the jackpot.
But most students didn’t seem to mind testing their chances.
“It’s the best investment I can think of,” said kinesiology sophomore Joel Tank. “I can expect to lose a dollar.”
Psychology professor David Lykken compared lottery players to rats used in a psychology experiment.
In those tests, rats were first given pellets each time they pushed a button. Later they were given pellets only after four, five, or even 100 times — a random reward Lykken likened to the lottery.
“As long as you make it unpredictable, you can produce a response that just keeps on going almost infinitely,” said Lykken, who added he doesn’t play the lottery. “I don’t like to think of myself as a white rat pushing on the lever from someone else’s instruction.”
But the promise of a huge pay-off lures many students into playing.
“I only buy tickets when it’s big,” said chemical engineering graduate student Chris Goralski. “And everybody’s talking about this one.”
Lottery spokesman Geoff Gorvin said callers ask what will happen to their money in the event of their death. Many wonder whether they can maintain their anonymity if they win.
“They can’t,” Gorvin said.
He said the most important message he relayed to people was to spend within their means and have fun.
“It’s a form of entertainment,” Gorvin said. “We don’t want people blowing their whole life savings on this lottery.”
Goralski said he couldn’t comprehend why people spend so much money on the lottery. “It cracks me up when I see people spending $100 on this stuff,” Goralski said. “I’m pretty realistic about my chances.”