The Truth About Lottery Gambling

A lot of people spend a good chunk of their discretionary income on lottery tickets. The regressiveness of this type of gambling has been documented, but there is a deeper message that is often hidden behind the irrational and mathematically impossible odds of winning. That message is the hope that money can solve all of life’s problems. This is a form of covetousness and violates the biblical commandment against it (Exodus 20:17; 1 Timothy 6:10).

Lottery prizes are derived from the pool of money generated by ticket sales after all expenses, including profits for the promoter and taxes or other revenue, are deducted. Most large-scale lotteries offer a single, large prize and a number of smaller prizes. Some of the larger prizes are predetermined and others depend on the total number of tickets sold.

Many players try to improve their chances of winning by selecting certain numbers based on patterns, birthdays, ages, favourites, or other significant dates. This strategy is often ineffective, as it increases the chance that other players select the same numbers. Harvard statistics professor Mark Glickman recommends choosing random numbers or purchasing Quick Picks.

The biggest winners in a lotto game are typically people in the bottom two quintiles of income distribution. They don’t have much in the way of discretionary income to begin with, so they will spend a big chunk of what little they do have on tickets. But even the wealthiest Americans should not be spending more than a couple of hundred dollars on this type of gamble. Instead, they should be using it to build an emergency fund or pay off debt.