Is the Lottery Worth the Cost?

The lottery is the most popular form of gambling in the United States. It’s also the biggest source of state government revenue. People spent upward of $100 billion on tickets in 2021, and states rely on them to fund education, health care, roads, and other essentials. But is it worth the cost to us all?

Most Americans play the lottery at least once in their lives. And while they may all believe the slender possibility that they will be the next big winner, the reality is much more sobering. The vast majority of players are low-income, less educated, and nonwhite. And these same people are disproportionately represented in the top 20 to 30 percent of total ticket sales.

Super-sized jackpots drive lottery sales by generating free publicity on news websites and television. But that is not enough to sustain the games. The odds of winning are stacked against you; the average prize in a U.S. lottery is around 24 percent of the jackpot. And that’s before federal and state taxes, which could reduce your winnings to half or less of the advertised jackpot amount.

The Bible warns against coveting money and the things that it can buy. Despite the rosy promises of lottery salespeople, winning the jackpot will not fix your life’s problems or make you happy. In fact, the euphoria that comes with big-ticket wins can lead to self-destructive behavior and even criminal activities. Winning a large sum of money also opens the door for jealous friends and family members to come after you.