How to Make the Lottery More Attractive


A lottery is a process where participants pay for a ticket (or several tickets) and are assigned a number or numbers. Then they hope that those numbers match the ones that a machine randomly spits out to win a prize. It is often used to determine things like units in a subsidized housing block, kindergarten placements, or sports team roster spots. But it is also used in a financial context to dish out large cash prizes to paying participants.

The logical way to make a lottery system more appealing to players is to increase the size of the jackpots. But that can be a dangerous proposition. After all, if winning the lottery becomes the national obsession, it could cause real damage to people’s lives and their families.

So the game designers have to come up with other ways to get us hooked. That’s the same psychology that tobacco companies and video-game makers use—just not under the auspices of state governments.

To do so, they began to promote the lottery as a solution to budget problems. No longer arguing that it would float the entire state budget, they now claimed that it would cover a specific line item—usually education, but sometimes elder care, public parks, or aid for veterans. In this way, they could avoid offending the antitax wing of the electorate and still find a way to raise money. And the strategy worked. In the nineteen-seventies and eighties, lotteries exploded in popularity, even as incomes dipped and unemployment rose, as pensions and job security eroded, as health care costs increased, and as our longstanding national promise that hard work would ensure that children were better off than their parents disappeared.

Previous post How to Win at Slots
Next post What Does Poker Teach You?