The Ugly Underbelly of the Lottery


The lottery is the game where you pick a series of numbers in the hope that one will hit the jackpot. It is a game with an ugly underbelly. Winners often become so accustomed to the wealth they gain through the lottery that they are no longer able to manage it. They might lose it all unless they farm out their financial decisions to a crack team of professionals and keep up a steady stream of money from diversified investments. Attaining true wealth is incredibly difficult, but the lottery presents a tantalizing opportunity to do it without pouring decades of effort into any single area and then hoping that it all pays off someday.

In the US, lotteries earn billions of dollars each year. The money is used for a variety of purposes, from promoting health to funding public services. Lotteries have been around for centuries, with some of the first documented ones dating back to the 15th century in the Low Countries. Town records from Bruges, Ghent, and Utrecht describe raising funds for wall construction, town fortifications, and the poor through lotteries.

Lottery enthusiasts often argue that the games help provide for state governments without imposing onerous taxes on working people. This is a common line of argument, and it can be valid, depending on how the games are designed. But studies show that the popularity of state lotteries is not related to a state’s objective fiscal condition. People still support them even when the government is in good fiscal shape because of the value they place on entertainment and other non-monetary benefits they gain from playing the games.