Sunday, May 13, 2012

One born every minute

Further evidence that cluelessness afflicts the newsroom as well as the public at large:

Lottery players at Tuzzo's Circle News in Hollywood think today's their day. So do those at a Pembroke Pines Publix and others at Government Discount in Miami.

At least, the numbers are on their side. Those South Florida retailers rank high among venues that have sold tickets awarding $600 or more, according to a Sun Sentinel analysis of Florida Lottery winnings since 1993.

(Visit to see where lottery tickets with payouts of $600 or more have been sold since 1993.)

Sigh. Yes, it's generally true that many lottery players, wherever they are, "think today's their day." Whether players at these three venues are more likely to hold that view than others isn't the sort of question you can answer with a feature story. Whether "the numbers are on their side" is a bit simpler: No. They aren't.

It's a free country, and Congress shall make no law abridging, &c &c &c, so you're perfectly entitled to do whatever you want with your "analysis" time and your frontpage space. In some cosmic sense, sharing popular delusions about the lottery isn't any worse than publishing the horoscopes. But if you'd like to be taken seriously when you proclaim "study says" or "poll reveals," you need to run a disclaimer with your "want to hit the lottery" tales:

On the other hand, you might as well go ahead and play your mom's birthday. It has the same predictive value as this analysis: None.

There's a reason it's called the stupidity tax, you know.

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