Guaranteeing a Powerball win is both possible and unprofitable

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A very rich person could guarantee a Powerball win, but they'd lose money in the process.

That's according to a somewhat scientific attempt by a math-challenged reporter to crunch the numbers.

Take the basic facts:

1. There is no limit to the number of tickets an individual can buy.
2. There are 292 million possible number combinations for the Powerball prize.
3. Each ticket costs $2.00

If a person had and was willing to invest $584 million, they could buy every possible number combination.

But they'd have to do it one ticket at a time, meaning hiring a whole lot of people to fill out the forms.

If you estimate (unscientifically) that one person could fill out 1,000 tickets over three days between drawings: that means 292,000 workers could fill out every possible number combination in three days in between drawings.

At minimum wage, that would cost about $50.8 million.

Pay $10 million for the administrators and number-crunchers, and another $5 million for security, and you've spent nearly $650 million.

If you do it all right, you win and take the lump sum of $930 million.

The federal tax rate on that would be 39.6 percent.

That puts the total winnings at $562 million after taxes, meaning a guaranteed win had a total cost of $87 million--and that's assuming the rich player has the only winning ticket.

4 comments

  • arcarazo

    You’re forgetting about the fact that you deduct all your losing tickets for tax purposes. You report $930 million in gambling wins, then $584 million in gambling losses. So you pay the 39.6% tax on your $346 million profit NOT the $930 million total. That makes federal taxes due $137 million not $368 million. In your example with payng the workers, security, etc….then someone who did this would come out about $200 million ahead if they were the only winner.

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