Includes video report
By Todd Northrop
On the final episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight for the year, host John Oliver took a look at state lotteries and argued that they disproportionately take money from the poor by selling hope while failing to deliver on the promise of a better life or improved funding of state programs.
Included in the segment was an examination of how difficult the Mega Millions multi-state lottery game is to win. The show borrowed a clip from CNN's New Day program when Todd Northrop, Founder of Lottery Post, was interviewed about the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot on Dec. 17, 2013.
(See Mega Millions jackpot soars to $636 million, Lottery Post, Dec. 17, 2013.)
Northrop compared the likelihood of winning the Mega Millions jackpot to being struck by lightning at the same time as being eaten by a shark.
Which also happens to be a great line for an HBO satirical comedy sketch. (And which the audience seemed to enjoy.)
"That is both an evocative image and an amazing pitch for a movie," Oliver said.
"OK, so there's this guy, he's getting eaten by a shark, see, lightning hits him, he switches minds with the shark, the shark wins the lottery. It's Freaky Friday meets Jaws, I'm calling it SlumShark Gillionaire!"
Oliver went on to make several strong arguments against the lottery in satirical comedic fashion.
He pointed out that in 2013 state-run gambling operations took in over $68 billion in revenue.
"$68 billion. That's more than Americans spent last year on movie tickets, music, porn, the NFL, Major League baseball, and video games combined," Oliver explained. "Which basically mean Americans spent more on the lottery than they spent on America."
What was not mentioned was that the lottery is a completely voluntary form of entertainment, unlike the taxes that he apparently prefers, which are compulsory.
Also not mentioned were the long line of winners who did indeed win the lottery, and are certainly glad they purchased a ticket. Oliver did mention a few headlines about winners who had tragic stories however.
Despite his clip being utilized in service of an anti-lottery comedy segment, Northrop is glad to be featured.
"Viewers can see I'm having a good time with the odds analogy, and John Oliver's audience also had a good laugh," Northrop said.
"John Oliver is a brilliant writer and satirist, and he raises some important points," Northrop continued. "Comedy and satire have a way of cutting straight to the heart of an argument, giving citizens and state governments alike something to think about. If government does make changes in the industry, hopefully it will weigh both sides of the issues fairly."
VIDEO: Watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The Lottery (HBO)
Coming Soon: SlumShark Gillionaire
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