Lottery is a huge industry. People spend upwards of $100 billion per year on lottery tickets in the United States, and state governments promote these games as a way to bring in revenue. While that may be true, it’s also clear that the vast majority of people who play the lottery don’t know how bad their odds are. They just have this irrational belief that somehow, they’re going to get rich.
We’ve interviewed a lot of these lottery players, and they all tell the same story: they buy tickets every week, $50, $100 a week. They have these quote-unquote “systems” that don’t jibe with statistical reasoning, they have a lucky store or time of day to buy, they don’t use the same numbers all the time. All of that is irrational, but it doesn’t matter because they’re playing the lottery. They feel like it’s their only chance to get rich, and that feeling is bolstered by the fact that they think they’re being irrational because other people are doing the same thing.
The idea of getting rich through a lottery-like game is not just irrational, but it’s harmful to the people who play it. They should instead be using the money they’re spending on lottery tickets to build an emergency fund or pay down debt. And even if they do win, they’ll have to pay taxes on their prize, which will take away a significant chunk of the value of what they won.