"No one has a better chance than you," blares the advertisement for New York State's lottery. The slogan is not quite true. The government has a better chance of collecting a payoff than all the players put together, and it does not even have to buy a ticket. It keeps 45% of all the money invested on tickets. Another 15% is withheld to help cover operating costs, including 6% to ticket vendors and 1% for bank fees and bonus prizes to vendors. That leaves only 40% of the total take to be distributed in prize money. In other words, if...

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