The Benefits of Winning the Lottery


In a time when states need to raise money for many public purposes, lotteries have become popular sources of supposedly painless revenue. Yet critics charge that lotteries promote addictive gambling, do little to reduce illegal betting, and impose a regressive tax on lower-income groups. Moreover, state officials may face a fundamental conflict between their desire to increase revenues and their duty to protect the general welfare.

Despite such objections, lottery revenues have grown steadily. In addition, new games have been introduced to maintain and even increase revenues. This reflects the fact that public support for lotteries is not necessarily linked to a state’s fiscal health and is influenced more by perceived benefits than by objective economic conditions.

While some people have made a living from winning the lottery, Lustig believes that it is important to remember that money can be a poor substitute for food and shelter. He advises players to manage their bankroll and avoid desperate lottery games that are likely to deplete their savings. “Health, family and a roof over your head come before potential lottery winnings,” he says.

The practice of distributing property or goods by lot has been recorded since ancient times. The Old Testament records the use of lotteries to divide land and to distribute slaves. Roman emperors used it to award prizes for Saturnalian feasts and other entertainments. In the 15th century, towns in the Low Countries held lotteries to raise funds for town fortifications and to help the poor.