The Costs of Playing the Lottery

The lottery is a game of chance that offers a large sum of money to multiple winners who get selected through a random drawing. It is considered a form of gambling and is often regulated by government. People spend billions of dollars on lottery tickets each year. But it’s important to understand the true costs of playing the lottery before making a decision to buy one ticket or another.

In the US, people spent upwards of $100 billion on lottery tickets in 2021. And though states promote the games as ways to raise revenue, it’s worth asking whether that money is actually helping people who need it.

Most people who play the lottery are not poor. In fact, the vast majority of players are in the 21st through 60th percentile of income. That means that they have a few discretionary dollars to spend on something like a Powerball ticket and are willing to take the risk for the potential of a big win. But the truth is that lottery winnings are regressive, and people who play them spend a much larger percentage of their income on the games than those at the top.

When we see billboards for a massive jackpot, we’re being told that people who play the lottery are “just gamblers”. And while there is some inextricable human impulse to gamble, it’s more complicated than that. State lotteries are dangling the promise of instant riches to a group of people that already has a hard time getting by in our society.