For someone who loves playing the lottery, I very frequently get asked: ‘Is it wise to play the lottery?’
Quite obviously, for someone who loves playing games of luck, the straight answer would be a ‘yes.’ On the other hand, for those who aren’t a fan of gambling, it would be a ‘no.’
Is it wise to play the lottery?
The lottery is a game of luck where you bet on a set of numbers. The winning combination is then drawn as scheduled. The lottery is often used to raise funds for different purposes. In most countries, the government runs the lottery and the money that is raised is used for good causes. However, there are also government sanctioned lotteries that are operated by private companies with portions of the income going to state funds.
To play the lottery, you need to make a bet (a small amount of money to pay the ticket) for the chance to win the grand prize (a large sum of money.) It doesn’t involve any skill. You just pick your numbers and expect that it will be drawn. However, the odds of winning the prize are very, very slim — just one in millions of probabilities.
What do experts really say?
In the highly popular lottery Powerball, the probability of hitting the grand prize is 1 in 292,201,338 (close to impossible!) Looking at your chances, your mind is probably shouting: NO, don’t play the lottery. You’d be better off buying a burger with your $2.
But let’s take a look at it from a completely different perspective. What if your $2 can give you $700 Million instantly? Now, your intuition is certainly pushing you to the lottery stall. That’s a 35 Million percent gain! Where could you possibly get that money? Could you ever earn this in your lifetime?
Imagine what your life would be if you hit the jackpot prize. Just simply dreaming of it can make your mind wander with pleasure. It also gives you a sense of entertainment and optimism.
In this 2016 commentary posted at Forbes.com, personal finance advisor Vanessa McGrady stressed that playing the lottery isn’t bad as long as you are buying within your capacity. If you wouldn’t mind spending $2 on a lottery ticket and this doesn’t hurt your finances, then there’s nothing wrong with it.
Paul Dreyer, a mathematician for the RAND Corporation, noted that even though there is a very, very, very slim chance of winning in a lottery, you can consider your $2 the cost of entertainment. And that’s not a costly form of entertainment at all, especially when compared to a movie ticket, a dinner in an expensive restaurant, or splurging on vacations.
Furthermore, it’s delightful to know that every time you play the state-run lottery, a portion of your money goes to good causes. It’s perhaps the only consolation you win every time you lose.
Remember also, that it is not only the grand prize that you can win. There are other possible prizes, albeit of lower amounts, that you can win, such as hitting 5 out of 6 numbers. It may be minimal when compared to the jackpot but it’s still money.
But most important of all, playing lottery fuels your optimism by letting you enjoy a momentary dream of living a luxurious life.
Now, going back to the question: Should you play the lottery?
The answer would all depend on YOU. No one can tell you whether the lottery is a wise game or not. It’s all up to you.
We can debate all day and at the end of the day just agree to disagree.
But here’s a caution: any form of gambling is bad if it starts to affect your finances and your personal life. Just like any game of luck, the lottery should be considered as pure entertainment and never an investment. You should not depend on it. Instead, it should serve as a positive distraction to your everyday life.
The lottery should also not be a reason for you to worry or cut back on your basic necessities. If the disappointment of losing prevails over the excitement of anticipation and winning, then you have to reconsider playing the lottery.
The unique kind of thrill that playing the lottery gives to bettors is a positive thing that we can benefit from. In fact, it’s something many of us need every day.
Finally, let me leave you with these three pointers:
- If the grand prize would NOT substantially change your financial life, supposing you’re filthy rich, then don’t play the lottery. You wouldn’t need the prize anyway.
- If the grand prize would substantially change your financial life, then betting a few dollars every now and then (or when the jackpot is high) isn’t bad. Just make sure you are financially secure and playing the lottery doesn’t affect your finances.
- If spending a few dollars affects your finances and your life such as cutting back on basic necessities or spending causes you to worry, then don’t play the lottery. Don’t waste your money.
So, if you’re having a hard time deciding whether to buy a lottery ticket or not, just go back to these three conditions. Happy betting and may the odds be ever in your favor!