Jackpot! $580 million Powerball win is a pleasure for all of us - not just the lucky two

No winner can really express the strangeness of victory

Share

You could call it a “jackpot”, but that doesn’t quite seem to capture the scale. 

580 million dollars. More than the four times the net worth of David Beckham. A chunk more than the GDP of Tonga: that’s the sum two punters – one in Arizona, the other Missouri – will split when they hand in their winning Powerball lottery tickets, presumably at some point later today. You can picture the duo now - hearts doing double-time, hands clammy, still poring over that precious, worryingly-thin ticket for the second largest draw in America’s lottery history. Scan the numbers: 05, 16, 22, 23, 29 and 6. Think on the odds: one in 175 million.

By this morning the story has moved past news that, after 16 rollovers, Powerball has at last found some winners, to the question of who exactly are these people? And how did they get so ridiculously lucky? Things we'd like to know include: Did they choose the same numbers for years? Are they skinny or fat? Was their selection the product of some nexus of probability charts? Or a reference to a dog’s birthday, or Michael Jordan’s shirt number?

Ugly

The fascination with lottery winners can feel ugly at times - initial curiosity, followed by the wait for a collapse into a nasty cocaine and monster trucks habit. But fears of voyeurism shouldn’t stop us enjoying what is at heart one of the more wonderful and bizarre scenes in modern life.

No winner can react wildly enough to reflect the seismic change in their fortunes. What we're left with is a heartwarming contrast between outrageous good fortune and the limits of human expression.

Some winners cry, but, for the more stolid types, terms like “happy”, “delighted” and “over the moon” are made to do an awful lot more work than they’re used to. Remember Britain’s biggest winners (£161 million)? They celebrated their magical moment by… sitting down to a single glass of white wine.

Ban it?

There is a dark lining here. Valid arguments exist for shutting down the National lottery altogether – and they recur with every big win. First, it’s glaringly hypocritical for the state to try and minimise gambling and institutionalise it at the same time. Second, the only reason people build up enough hopeful steam to buy a tickets is that our brains lack the muscle to properly weigh up chance. Third, those worst affected tend to be the poorest, who become trapped in a weekly cycle of baseless hope and subsequent despondency.

Should we be more outraged? Possibly. It’s very easy for people who only flutter occasionally to dismiss lottery addiction. But at the same time, for millions, it provides a small pleasure, along the lines of a nicotine hit, and a chance for a mild speculative conversation. What would you do with the money? Or more pertly, what are your dreams?

Then there's another point: 28% of lottery money goes to charity, more than £26 billion in total.

That might ease the conscience a little. So gawp away at the winners from Arizona and Missouri: put yourself in their shoes, take a coffee-break daydream. And if you can't shake a base note of jealousy - read this, apparently winners are only happier than us in the short-term.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference