Why is the Lottery So Popular?


Although deciding fates and distributing prizes by drawing lots has a long record in human history, the modern lottery is relatively new. The first recorded public lotteries that offered tickets for sale with a prize in the form of money were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century, to raise funds for town fortifications and to help the poor. However, earlier examples of lotteries, such as keno slips found on the wall of the Chinese Han dynasty between 205 and 187 BC, suggest that gambling has been an integral part of human society for much longer than this.

The origin of modern state-run lotteries can be traced to the aversion of some states’ political leaders to raising taxes, especially during periods of economic stress. Lottery supporters argued that, since people would gamble anyway, the profits could be used for a public good such as education. Research has shown, however, that the popularity of a lottery does not appear to be tied to a state’s actual fiscal condition; the public approval it receives is more likely to depend on its perceived social benefits and the extent to which it is perceived as a painless alternative to taxes.

In addition, many state-run lotteries benefit from a perception of a “commutative” effect, in which a small percentage of players will win big and offset the losses of those who don’t. This belief, while logically flawed, provides a powerful moral rationalization for legalizing the industry. It is also a major factor in the success of lottery advertising, as it appeals to the inextricable impulse of humans to gamble.

Another reason why the lottery has become so popular is that it enables governments to generate revenue with relatively little risk, and without the need to establish any direct control mechanisms. This low risk and high revenue potential is an attractive proposition for those who organize state-sponsored lotteries, as well as for states that want to increase their own gambling revenue streams.

The most important step in winning the lottery is to understand and accept the odds. Avoid superstitions, hot and cold numbers, and quick picks – all of which can dramatically decrease your chances of winning. Instead, use mathematics to make your number choices – and stick with them. If you’re able to apply the laws of probability, you will soon be on your way to realizing your dreams and changing your life forever. For more tips on winning the lottery, check out Lustig’s How to Win the Lottery – The Mathematical Approach. With its undeniable proof and proven results, this book can be the key to a lottery victory that will transform your life. This is an opportunity that you shouldn’t miss. You’ll thank yourself for it later. — By Brian D. Rothman, a former economics professor at the University of Maryland and author of The Economics of Gambling and the Case for State-Sponsored Lotteries. Follow him on Twitter @BDRothman.