The Dark Underbelly of the Lottery


The lottery is one of America’s favorite pastimes, and it contributes billions of dollars to state budgets. But while the game is not inherently bad, it is important to understand how much it costs people, as well as how effective it is at raising money for state projects.

The idea of giving out prizes by drawing numbers dates back centuries. In fact, the Old Testament instructed Moses to draw lots to distribute land, and Roman emperors used it to give away property and slaves. Today, lottery is a way to give out everything from college scholarships to units in subsidized housing blocks and kindergarten placements at reputable public schools.

Lottery games are usually run by governments, and they are designed using statistical analysis to produce random combinations of numbers or symbols. Many states offer multiple games, including scratch-off tickets and daily games. People play the lottery for a variety of reasons, from chasing the dream of winning big to improving their chances of getting a good education or medical care.

But there’s a dark underbelly to the lottery, which is that many winners end up blowing their windfalls on huge houses and Porsches, gambling it away or getting slammed with lawsuits. A certified financial planner, Robert Pagliarini, tells Business Insider that to avoid such pitfalls, lottery winners should assemble a “financial triad” to help them plan for their future. Stefan Mandel, a mathematician who has won the lottery 14 times, agrees. He has developed a formula for picking winning numbers, and his advice is simple: If you want to increase your chances of winning, choose random numbers that aren’t close together-others will be less likely to select the same sequence.