Bob Gosselin of Lewiston hopes the green Buddha he bought at a yard sale at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds five years ago will help him win the lottery. Gosselin has been buying Lottery tickets for the past 10 years at Runway Variety in Auburn. “I’m trying like heck to win it,” he said. “I’m not going to stop playing until I do.” As for the T-shirt Gosselin is wearing, he has five shirts exactly the same and five tank tops just like it because “I love listening to country music.” The Wolf radio station plays country music. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

At 1018 Summer St. in Auburn stands a beautiful house that sprawls across 16 plush acres, not far from the southern tip of Lake Auburn. 

The house has six bedrooms and seven bathrooms. There’s an indoor pool, a heated spa and a massive kitchen. It’s truly a home fit for a king, and Robert Gosselin plans to buy it someday real soon. 

You know, as soon as he strikes it rich in one of the lotteries. The house is listed at over $800,000, after all. Opulent living doesn’t come cheap.

Robert Gosselin, a Lewiston resident, is 57 years old. Since he was 15 — around the time he learned he’d never be able to have children — he has dreamed of winning the lottery. 

“I’m working like a son of a gun to make that dream come true,” Robert Gosselin says. 

For now, he works for a tire company and lives in an apartment in downtown Lewiston. But a couple times a week, he heads over to Runway Variety on Hotel Road in Auburn and plops down a couple dollars for his tickets: MegaMillions and Powerball, mainly. 


You can hardly blame him. When Robert Gosselin first started dreaming of riches, Maine’s lottery was the MegaBucks, and it was a rare thing to see the jackpot get as high as $1 million. 

These days? That’s chump change. Presently, the Powerball itself is up to $725 million while the MegaMillions jackpot is slightly lower at just about half-a-billion dollars. We’re in an age where lotteries get up as high as a billion dollars, meaning that the four or six or eight bucks a person spends at the corner variety could turn them into a billionaire overnight. 

Somebody, as the hopeful rationale goes, has to win. 

Robert Gosselin wants to be that somebody, so every week he goes through his ritual. He either plays the lottery with his hand-picked numbers — based on a variety of factors, including his birthday and the age he was when he made his lottery wish — or goes with the “easy pick,” letting the machine choose the numbers for him. 

“If I’m just spending a few bucks, it’s an easy pick because lately the winning numbers that have been coming out are quite a bit higher than my regular numbers,” Robert Gosselin explains.

He’s also careful to kiss his happy green Buddha on the head. 


The green buddha is an item Robert Gosselin picked up for $35 at the Cumberland County Fairgrounds. Something about the statue just felt lucky to the man and so he keeps it close as a part of his lottery ritual. 

“I’ve had it in my possession for five years now,” Robert Gosselin says, “and I’m still wishing on it — still waiting for it to bring me luck.” 

One doesn’t get himself an $800,000 home by just going about this all willy-nilly, after all. 

Here’s some statistics for you. In Maine, the per capita amount spent on lottery tickets each year is roughly $230. That’s nothing in comparison to some other states. In Massachusetts, for example, a whopping $805 per capita is spent each year on the lottery. New York comes in a distance second, with New Yorkers spending $455 per capita on lottery tickets. 

It’s estimated that 50 percent of Americans will buy at least one lottery ticket this year. All in all, Americans will spend more than $100 billion on lottery tickets each year. According to some studies, the number is expected to increase to a massive $194 billion by 2025. 



The lottery is a big business, all right. Whether that means we live in a world full of chumps or not depends on who you ask. Some will say that the odds of actually winning the lottery (more on this in a bit) means any money spent on lottery tickets is wasted money from the get-go. It’s a scam, in other words. Or worse. 

“The lottery is a tax on poor people and on people who can’t do math,” said one woman who responded to our query on the topic. “Rich people and smart people would be in the line if the lottery were a real wealth-building tool, but the truth is that the lottery is a rip-off instituted by our government. This is not a moral position; it is a mathematical, statistical fact. Studies show that (people living in) the zip codes that spend four times what anyone else does on lottery tickets are those in lower-income parts of town. The lottery, or gambling of any kind, offers false hope, not a ticket out.” 

Some lottery enthusiasts will acknowledge all that and throw down their money for a ticket, anyway. After all, even if the chances of winning are slim, for those hours before the winning numbers are drawn, one can at least hope and dream that this time, the ship is going to come in. 

AUBURN, July 13, 2023 – Theresa Rodriguez shows off the lottery ticket she had just purchased Thursday afternoon at Gowell’s Variety in Auburn. “I have never won but (I) do it for the fun,” she said as she filled in the numbers. “I usually use a number associated with my kids or a former address. I stop on my way home from the gym.” Asked what she would do if she won, “I’d set my children up for life and maybe take a trip to Italy.” (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal) Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I do play occasionally, especially when the jackpot gets large,” says Tracy Clark Gosselin of Lisbon. “But, I just buy one — that’s all it takes to win. I look at it as a form of entertainment: I buy a ticket, I have a chance to become rich. I daydream about what we could do with the money, etc.” 

“I usually only buy a Powerball (or two) if the jackpot is above 350 million,” offers Lori D’Amico of Lewiston. “I used to play more often, but the odds of winning are so astronomical, it’s crazy! It IS fun to dream though.” 

Brenda Akers of Lewiston ruined her zeal for the lottery by studying numbers in school. Now when she looks at a lottery ticket, all she sees are the dollars she no longer has. 


“I don’t buy them because a long time ago in the previous century, I took a statistics class in college,” Akers says, “so after that I didn’t believe I can win — and if you don’t believe or have hope, it’s not very fun. My friend here loves to buy lottery tickets and often wins something, and that’s just enough to keep him buying them.” 

The good news — relatively, anyway — is that Maine is the seventh luckiest state in the nation with five lottery jackpot winners, receiving a total combined jackpot of $1.18 billion, according to the gambling research group, Casinoarabi.

Somebody has got to win, just keep telling yourself that over and over. Why not someone from your neck of the woods, right? I mean, it does happen. 

Earlier this year, a winning Mega Millions ticket worth $1.35 billion was sold just down the road a sneeze in Lebanon. The winning ticket was sold at a little place called Hometown Gas & Grill, which looks a lot like any variety store and diner where a person — maybe even you! — might buy a lottery ticket as an afterthought. 

The jackpot was the second-largest in Mega Millions history and the fourth time the game has had a billion-dollar win. The largest Mega Millions jackpot in October 2018 was $1.53 billion, claimed by a single ticket holder in South Carolina. Two Powerball jackpots have been larger, with one eclipsing $2 billion. 

For Robert Gosselin, all of this is just kind of white noise in the background. Yes, yes, the odds of winning are terrible, he says. But if he were to not play the lottery at all, he’d have zero chances of winning big and landing himself in a sweet, sweet house on 16 acres out near Lake Auburn. 


“I would love to have that place,” Robert Gosselin says. And then, with his characteristic optimism, he adds, “That’s what I’m going to do with my first lottery check.” 

What else? Well, once he has the big bucks, Robert Gosselin would take care of his friends and family, he says. He’s never been married and has no children to look after, so he can spend his dough any way he pleases. 

Although he wouldn’t mind having a companion around to share in the fun. 

“When I get the money,” he says, “I imagine I’ll have quite a few girlfriends.” 


The one thing Robert Gosselin should definitely NOT do is to talk with Eric Gaze, director of quantitative reasoning and a senior lecturer in mathematics at Bowdoin College. Why, one can tell by his title alone that Gaze knows a thing or two about lottery odds.  


Which, as it turns out, is a bit of an understatement: Gaze has a way of expressing the odds of winning a lottery in way that’s visual and easy for us non-math brainiacs to understand. 

To get us started, Gaze explains that the odds of winning the big jackpot in a lottery like Powerball are 1 in 300 million.

To put that in perspective, people often compare that lofty figure with the odds of getting struck by lighting, which are estimated at 1 in 1.2 million, and isn’t it funny how wee that number seems compared to the earlier one? 

Your odds of winning the jackpot aren’t just bad, they’re downright abysmal.  

The problem, according to Gaze, is that a lot of people aren’t particularly math oriented, so those numbers really don’t dissuade them from playing the lottery week after week. 

“Honestly, the hardest part of the issue here is that we just don’t have a good sense of big numbers,” Gaze says. “Like that number 300 million? To most people it literally doesn’t compute. They have no way of wrapping their heads around that.” 


For Gaze, it’s also curious that the odds come out the way they do. Three hundred million, as it happens, is also roughly the same as the population of the United States. 

“So if everybody in the U.S. plays, you’re guaranteed (there will be) a winner,” Gaze says. “And that’s really all it takes for people to believe that they are going to be a winner.”

Gaze frames it another way. Consider, he says, that you’re one of those people who plays the lottery just once a year, when the jackpot is really huge. How long would you have to play to be assured of a win? 

“You’d have to play once a year for 300 million years,” Gaze says. 

If one were to play the lottery every chance he gets, which comes out to about 150 times per year, the odds of hitting the jackpot get a better: 1 in 2 million, which means you’ll only have to play for 2 million years to statistically be guaranteed a win. 

One mental bias that lottery players might experience, Gaze says, is that they are willing to dismiss concepts like odds and probability because numbers picked for a lottery are seen as random, so it’s easy to set aside the mathematics of it altogether. 


“And who knows?” Gaze says. “Anything can happen. It’s just that some things are very less likely to happen.” 

Gaze himself, in spite of having a better grasp of the math than most, buys scratch tickets every now and then and has even been known to play the lottery on occasion. It just goes to show . . . something.


Some of our readers report winning smaller jackpots — $50 here, $100 there — but none have ever won to the level where their winnings stretched to six figures or more. 

One of them, though, got pretty close. 

Sun Journal photographer Russ Dillingham might not be doing his thing with the newspaper today if he’d had just a smidge more luck back on one fateful day in the 1980s. 


“One of the first big cash jackpots back when the lottery came out was $9 million, and I was one digit away from winning,” Dillingham recalls, somehow without much bitterness. “(I) had all the numbers except the last number. It was 25 and I picked 24. I got $500 bucks for it and vowed never to play again, but still do once in a great while when it gets wicked big just for the fun of a few minutes thinking about how I’d give most of it away. My plan was to give big chunks to family and friends with the stipulation that they had to give half of it away with the same stipulation. But that was before I was married and probably would not have the family I have now if I did win, so I am pretty sure I won by not winning the money.” 

The odds against Dillingham getting that close were pretty slim, yet it happened. He almost won.  


Our friend Robert Gosselin, with his big, green Buddha and his eyes on that fancy Summer Street house, is not put off by this talk of grim odds and slim probabilities. He’s been dreaming of winning the lottery for 42 years, by God. In a significant way, it feels like it’s his destiny to win the lottery. 

“It haunts me like a son of a gun,” Robert Gosselin says. “I’m just going to have to keep playing so I can have closure on that part of my life.” 

It’s not a matter of if, in other words. 

It’s a matter of when.

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