IF your retirement strategy centers on winning the Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot, there’s good news.
Virginia law now states that anyone winning more than $10 million in the lottery can remain anonymous. No more worrying about being hounded by those second cousins once removed who seem to appear out of thin air on the dock beside you when your ship comes in.
No need to change phone numbers or go into the lottery winners’ protection program to get away from fund-raisers and scam artists. (One Virginian who was a big winner reportedly had to move five times in a decade to keep the leeches away.)
Virginia joins six other states in shielding the identity of at least some lottery winners from the public.
Granted, there is concern about the lack of transparency. Apparently, there are store owners out there who buy a winning ticket for less than what the prize is worth from winners who opt for quick, easy, tax-free cash. The owner then cashes out the winning ticket for the full amount. An amazing number of close associates of some store owners have turned up with winning tickets.
However, this seems a weak argument for transparency. Surely there’s a way for the state to know when the system’s being gamed without announcing the winners’ names.
It must be said that the Virginia Lottery is not the most savvy way to invest one’s money. In 2015, it brought in $1.84 billion and paid out $1.1 billion to winners. Do the math. You probably have a better chance betting on horse racing or playing blackjack in Las Vegas.
Still, how else are you going to get filthy rich without growing more brain cells, marrying up or choosing your parents more wisely?
Never mind that the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are about 292 million to 1. Never mind that you are more likely to drown in the bathtub (840,000 to 1 by one estimate) or become an astronaut (13.2 million to 1). Ignore the fact that winning the jackpot is only slightly less improbable than being killed by a shark (about 300 million to 1).
Forget, also, that the old saw about money not buying happiness has been proved by more than one hapless winner who wound up just as poor as he was before he bought the fateful ticket.
A 2008 Dutch study found that winning the lottery doesn’t make a household happier. A 1978 study found that major lottery winners were no happier than the rest of us and got less joy from daily activities. You can only wallow in your Scrooge McDuck money pit so many times before the thrill is gone.
Logic be damned, the dream of winning the jackpot will always be a reliable source of income for whoever’s running the show. At least, with the new rules on anonymity, the lucky soul who achieves something four times more unlikely than being killed by an asteroid (75 million to 1) might have a better chance of hanging on to the loot.