The Santa Barbara School Unified District has received $1.9 million from state lottery proceeds so far this year. But if the numbers 12-14-20-37-48 with a megaball number of 07 get drawn on Friday night in the multi-state Mega Millions contest, the district will win over half a billion dollars.

That’s because local business Partnervest Financial Group has donated a single ticket to the district. And whereas most winners of the lottery would have to pay 25 percent of their haul to the federal government, the school district, as a nonprofit entity, could keep all of its winnings — either 26 annual payments of about $19.2 million or a lump sum of $359.4 million.

Partnervest Financial Group has donated this Mega Millions ticket — and any winnings it should garner — to the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Jim Herrell, Partnervest’s director of investments, emailed me to share the news yesterday. When I got back to him, I told him that the district might do better if his firm donated a teacher’s salary. But, because employees at Partnervest have children who attend both Peabody Charter and Santa Barbara High Schools, they actually do have an interest in the district — which is currently trying to close a $5.8 million budget gap and depends on nonprofits to supplement its music and arts curriculums — receiving a windfall. Herrell scanned and emailed an image of the ticket to the principals of those two schools.

Although the odds of hitting the jackpot are about 1-in-175,000,000, Herrell explained that the expected return on a dollar ticket is $2.42. There are 40 ways for a ticket to win money on Friday’s drawing including hitting the jackpot. Those who do actually win something can expect a 150 percent return on their investment, meaning that it’s worth taking a flier on a ticket because you stand to win a lot more than you risked. Buying 40 tickets, Herrell said, will give you the optimal investment-to-risk ratio.

And, because Mega Millions mania has been sweeping through The Santa Barbara Independent office this week, I decided to give Herrell some (virtual) ink. Indy employees pooled their money to buy 110 tickets before Tuesday’s drawing. We won $6 and will spend it on new tickets. According to a Mega Millions press release, four tickets won $1 million and 43 won $250,000 on Tuesday.

But nobody hit the jackpot so it is rolling over to Friday’s drawing. The new jackpot, which is still growing with ticket sales, will be the largest lottery jackpot ever.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s estimates, your chances of getting struck by lightning this year are about 230 times higher than those of winning the jackpot. When a decommissioned satellite reentered Earth’s atmosphere in September, we reported a NASA estimate that the odds of somebody getting hit by debris were 1-in-32,000, roughly 2.3 million times more likely than an individual’s chances of winning the Mega Millions jackpot. The Angry Poodle wanted to know how the odds of getting hit with “blue ice” compared. I can only guess that it is the same as someone being hit by space debris but, although there have been some near misses, nobody has yet been struck by airplane toilet effluent that sometimes escapes its holding tank, freezes into a chunk on the outside of a flying plane, and then plummets to earth.

Despite the long odds, conversations can be heard reverberating from the newsroom to the advertisement production office about what exotic vacations and sexy sports cars will be purchased when we win. I am embarrassed to report I heard someone dreaming out loud about an electric bicycle.

Responsible environmental stewardship aside, half a billion dollars justifies more grandiose fantasies. What everybody agreed upon, though, is that our motivation to work would steeply decline. So if next week there should be no Independent distributed on news stands throughout the county for the first time in 26 years, you will know why.


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