The Truth About the Lottery


In a lottery, people buy tickets for a chance to win money. Lotteries are typically run by governments, as they can raise large sums of money relatively cheaply. The draw is random, and the prizes can be very large. People are often willing to hazard a small amount for the possibility of a great gain, if the entertainment value (or other non-monetary benefits) is high enough. This makes it a rational decision for them, if the chance of winning is greater than the disutility of the monetary loss.

The popularity of the lottery has led to some states using it as a major source of revenue. But it’s not as transparent as a normal tax, and consumers generally aren’t aware of the implicit tax rate on the tickets they buy. After paying out prize money and covering the costs of promotion, only a percentage of ticket sales remain for state use, such as education.

People are lured into playing the lottery with promises that their lives will improve if they can only hit the jackpot. But this is statistically futile, and it also focuses people on the wealth that money can purchase—which God forbids (see Proverbs 23:5; 1 Timothy 6:10).

Lottery players must also realize that the time value of money decreases the more they spend on tickets. In addition, if they choose the lump-sum option, taxes will reduce their final payout. For these reasons, many people will end up with a smaller sum than they had expected—even after factoring in the advertised jackpot and the probability of hitting it.