The Dangers of Playing the Lottery


The lottery is a form of gambling where people buy tickets for a chance to win a large sum of money. It’s often run by states or even the federal government. But you can also find private lotteries, like the one Stefan Mandel ran for 14 years until he was caught in 2011. The odds of winning are incredibly low, so it’s important to understand how much of a risk you’re taking when you spend your hard-earned money on a lottery ticket.

Khristopher J. Brooks is a reporter for CBS MoneyWatch who covers consumer and business stories, as well as economic inequality, housing issues and the business of sports. He’s based in New York City and has written for publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Time Magazine and the Boston Mercantile Journal.

In the United States, state-run lotteries were popular for a while in the immediate post-World War II period. Initially, they were seen as a way for states to expand their social safety nets without especially burdening the working class. But that arrangement didn’t last long, and by the 1980s the regressive nature of lottery funding became clear to many state leaders.

A key problem with the lottery is that it creates an ugly underbelly: a sneaking feeling that no matter how improbable, someone must somehow eventually get lucky. It can lead to a dangerous cycle of excessive spending. It can be difficult to break out of this pattern, but it is possible to limit lottery spending by playing small amounts and only buying a single ticket at a time.