What Are We Paying For When We Buy a Lottery Ticket?


A lottery is a game in which people pay a small sum of money to be given a chance to win a larger prize. It’s one of the world’s oldest gambling games. It’s also one of the most popular, generating billions in revenue for state governments each year.

But what are we really paying for when we buy a lottery ticket? Many state lotteries promote themselves as a way to support education and other public services. But that’s a misleading message. The vast majority of lottery proceeds go to a very small number of winners.

In addition, the game is regressive: The bottom quintile of Americans have very little discretionary income to spend on tickets. And most of them don’t have the means to get out of their circumstances if they win. The biblical command not to covet money and the things that it can buy is an important truism in this context.

But there are more fundamental issues at play in this arena as well. Lotteries sell the hope that a large jackpot will solve all of our problems and give us a better life. That’s a dangerously seductive narrative. But the truth is that winning a big jackpot isn’t going to fix our broken society, or solve any other social problem for that matter. It will only make it worse. That’s why the game should be examined and regulated.

Posted in: Gambling