Is Winning the Lottery Worth the Losses?


Lottery is a game in which players purchase tickets, or tokens, and win prizes if their numbers match those randomly drawn by a machine. People spend upward of $100 billion a year on lottery games in the United States, making them the most popular form of gambling in the country. States promote these games as a source of revenue, but it’s worth asking whether that money is really worth the losses that lottery winners face.

A lottery is an arrangement in which the prize or prizes are allocated by chance: “The lottery was a painless way for the state to raise funds for social services.” (American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition)

To conduct a lottery, there must be some means of recording the identities of bettors and the amounts staked on each ticket. Typically, the tickets are numbered, and the bettor may sign his name on the ticket or deposit it with the lottery organization for subsequent shuffling and possible selection in a drawing. The organizers must also record the total amount of prizes and deduct the costs of organizing and promoting the lottery, usually taking a percentage of the total pool for taxes and profits.

Lottery participants are often lured with promises that their lives will improve if they just win the lottery. But this kind of hope is based on the lie that wealth comes from luck, not hard work: “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring riches” (Proverbs 10:4).