Why You Shouldn’t Play the Lottery


Americans spend upward of $100 billion a year on lottery tickets, making it the most popular form of gambling. States promote lotteries as a painless way to raise revenue, but there are some significant trade-offs. One of them is that people who win the jackpot are often worse off than before — in some cases, even bankrupt within a few years. The other is that playing the lottery teaches people to covet money and things that money can buy. The Bible clearly forbids covetousness (Exodus 20:17, 1 Timothy 6:10).

The first recorded lotteries in the modern sense of the word appeared in the Low Countries in the 15th century, with towns holding public lotteries to raise funds for town fortifications and to help the poor. But it was Francis I of France who encouraged the public participation in lotteries and gave his name to the game.

In the United States, most lottery players are in the 21st through 60th percentiles of income distribution. They tend to have a couple dollars in their discretionary budgets to spend on tickets. That makes the games regressive and can be problematic for those who are trying to climb the middle class or make a real go at it in business, for example.

In addition, the odds of winning are slim — in fact, there’s a much better chance of being struck by lightning or becoming a billionaire than of hitting the jackpot. And if you do win, you have to split the prize with anyone else who has the same numbers. That’s why experts suggest you pick random numbers, rather than ones that are close together or have sentimental value to you, like birthdays or ages. That will increase your chances of winning by reducing the likelihood that other people have the same strategy.