Is Winning the Lottery Worth the Risk?

For some people, the lottery can be a path to unimaginable wealth. But is winning really worth the risk? The answer depends on how much you value the non-monetary benefits of the game.

In a way, the lottery is like any other gambling game. In both cases, you pay a small amount of money in exchange for a chance to win a larger sum of money. But in the case of the lottery, the odds of hitting a big jackpot are extremely low. And there have been plenty of examples where winning the lottery has actually left winners worse off than before.

The history of lotteries goes back to the fifteenth century, when they were common in the Low Countries as a way to raise funds for town fortifications and help the poor. But it was the advent of state-sponsored lotteries that really revolutionized the industry, Cohen writes. Politicians faced with declining tax revenues saw lotteries as a way to maintain services without hiking taxes and risking voter retaliation.

Unlike most gambling games, which involve rolling dice or playing cards, lottery play involves choosing a series of numbers in a range of options. The odds of choosing all the right numbers in the lotto are ridiculously low—there’s a greater likelihood of being struck by lightning than winning the Powerball lottery. But that hasn’t stopped millions of people from purchasing tickets every week.

The lottery is also unique in that it doesn’t discriminate by race, gender, economic status or political affiliation. It’s a game of pure chance, which means your personal and professional background doesn’t have a single impact on whether you’ll win.