Lottery isn’t just about winning a huge jackpot—it’s also about gaining access to a whole new set of opportunities. That’s why it’s a popular strategy among poor people and the working class, who often spend as much as $80 billion a year on tickets.
In Cohen’s telling, the modern era of lottery came of age in the nineteen-sixties, when growing awareness of all the money to be made in the gambling business collided with a crisis in state funding. With America’s population growing and inflation rising, state budgets were getting out of hand. Balancing the books was becoming impossible without raising taxes or cutting services, both of which were unpopular with voters.
The answer, some argued, was to legalize the lottery, so that state governments could take advantage of a natural economic phenomenon. As the odds of winning dropped, ticket sales rose. It was counterintuitive, but as far as most players were concerned, the difference between one-in-three-million odds and one-in-three-hundred-million didn’t matter.
Some people also defended the lottery on moral grounds. They argued that since most people were going to gamble anyway, the government might as well collect some of the profits. It was a flawed argument, but it offered some moral cover to lottery proponents.
If you want to improve your chances of winning, try playing more numbers or buying a larger number of tickets. But remember that every number has an equal chance of being chosen, and no set of numbers is luckier than any other. It’s just a matter of random chance, and it is important to avoid playing numbers that have sentimental value, like those that are associated with your birthday or the date you were born.