What You’re Getting Into When Playing the Lottery


The casting of lots to determine fates and awards has a long history, dating back to biblical times. But in modern times, governments use lotteries to collect revenue without having to impose taxes on their citizens.

The lottery’s business model depends on a core group of regular players. These “super users” account for about 70 to 80 percent of total tickets sold. They are disproportionately lower-income, less educated, and nonwhite. They spend $50 to $100 a week or more on tickets.

Lotteries promote themselves as fun and harmless, but the truth is that they are addictive and can be dangerous for people with addiction issues. And because state lotteries are run as businesses with the goal of maximizing revenues, advertising necessarily involves urging people to spend their money on them.

Although the practice of buying lottery tickets is not a problem in and of itself, promoting gambling raises questions about whether it is appropriate for state government to be running a business that profits from a form of addiction. The state should be in the business of providing a social safety net, not encouraging people to gamble away their life savings. And if people are losing their life savings to the lottery, it can have devastating consequences for them and their families. This is especially true for poorer individuals who may already be struggling. This is why it’s important to know what you’re getting into when playing the lottery.