Lottery Tricks to Keep Players Coming Back For More


Lottery is a pretty easy way to take advantage of people’s psychological tendencies when it comes to risk and reward. As such, it’s illegal except when run by the government. Lottery commissions are not above employing every trick in the book to keep players coming back for more. This isn’t so different from what tobacco companies or video-game makers do.

In the late nineteen-seventies and eighties, lottery advocates brushed aside ethical objections by arguing that gamblers were going to do it anyway, so governments might as well pocket the proceeds. In the era of tax revolts and Reagan’s “greed is good” philosophy, the arguments rang true. But if state-run gambling was going to bring in money for public services, it had better deliver.

As it turned out, winning big in the numbers game was not going to be as easy as it sounded. As jackpots grew to apparently newsworthy amounts, the odds of winning decreased, and the number of tickets sold soared.

The problem was that, despite the declining chances of winning, most players still thought it was possible to do so. This resulted in an obsession with unimaginable wealth, a phenomenon that coincided with the erosion of other sources of financial security. Income gaps widened, pensions were cut, and health-care costs increased. The promise that hard work and education would make most people better off than their parents ceased to hold true. Unless, that is, they won the lottery.