The Odds of Winning the Lottery Are Low, But That Doesn’t Mean You Shouldn’t Play

The odds of winning the lottery are incredibly low. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. It’s a great way to buy a luxury home, trip around the world or close all your debt.

But before you go buying those tickets, consider this: You could do better with that money. NerdWallet’s Richard Lustig won a small lottery prize and says he put it toward something that truly changed his life: giving back.

Lottery is an extremely popular form of gambling in the United States, with a little more than $100 billion spent on lottery tickets in 2021 alone. Almost all state governments operate their own lotteries, and they are granted monopoly rights in the process. Profits from these lotteries go directly into state coffers.

The monopoly and the public support for lotteries makes them a major source of government revenue in the United States. Whether or not that revenue is actually meaningful to the overall state budget, however, remains debatable.

One reason lotteries tend to gain more popularity when there is a fiscal crisis in the state is that they are often promoted as a source of revenue that can help prevent tax increases or cuts to public programs. But this is not a solid argument to adopt lotteries, as many research studies show that the objective fiscal situation of the state does not appear to have much influence on its adoption of or rejection of a lottery.

Clotfelter suggests that people play the lottery because they like to pick numbers such as their birthdays or children’s ages, which have patterns that make them more likely to repeat. Instead, he recommends picking random numbers or buying Quick Picks to increase the chances of winning.