With such unfavorable odds, why is it people buy lotto tickets?

Jan 14, 2016

Three winning tickets match all the numbers in the record-high powerball jackpot drawing Wednesday night, one in California, Florida and Tennessee. 


Following the announcement, thousands took to Twitter using the hashtag "#IfIWonPowerball," to share what they'd do with the $1.6 billion jackpot. 
 

The Chino Hills store where winning ticket was sold.
Credit Twitter user: California Lottery

UC Santa Barbara economics professor Gary Charness studies behavioral economics and said from a financial perspective, buying a lottery ticket is a bad investment.

"But people aren't doing that, people are buying hope," said Charness. "You have some chance of getting out of your life situation and changing everything (or at least you see it that way)--changing everything in your life. And there are a lot of people who don't have a lot of money, that struggle, and they see this as a shining beacon of hope." 

He says it's not just about the hope in winning, but also about being part of a major event in life. 

"Everyone is going to remember the billion and a half lotto," said Charness. 

California has been selling Powerball tickets since 2013.