If you look past the ridiculously low chance of winning, the chance of addiction and resulting expenses, the lottery may be for you.
According to CNN, the chance of a ticket winning a Powerball jackpot is one in 175,223,510. Harvard School of Public Health compared this to other unlikely situations. People are more likely to die from a bee sting—a one in 6.1 million chance or die from a lightning strike—a one in three million chance, than win the lottery.
The lottery is also a gateway to gambling addiction.
The National Gambling Impact Study Commission collected data in 2000 that showed between 15 and 20 million people have either problem or pathological gambling addictions in the United States. That number of people would fill around 214 average NFL stadiums.
Addiction to gambling leads to many unsavory consequences. A California Council on Problem Gambling study found that 60 percent of those obsessed with gambling will commit crimes and 63 percent are alcoholics. National Research Council examined spouse and child abuse in correlation with gambling addicts and found 50 percent of addicts are likely to abuse their family. Attempted suicides are also more likely for gambling addicts than average citizens.
The lottery is relatively inexpensive for the average citizen, but others may put much of their income into gambling. According to the 2006 Gross Annual Wager Report, Americans lost nearly $91 billion on all forms of gambling combined, including the lottery.
The argument for gambling is that all the money is not wasted, as it goes into the education system and other public services. Yet, of that $91 billion, roughly half of the gross income is paid to the handful of winners.
The administrative costs of running the lottery, plus the in-depth advertising campaigns that entice people to play, take another significant portion from the income. What remains for public works is meager compared to the vast amount of money wasted to keep the lottery running.
Instead of entertaining charity, the lottery is detrimental to the economy and people. Americans with lower income are more likely to gamble than others because they are hoping to escape their poverty.
On the national average, lottery gamblers with household incomes under $10,000 bet nearly three times as much as those with incomes more than $50,000.
Some people who rely on government financial services put a lot of that money into the lottery, which starts a vicious cycle of needing more help to fund desperate attempts for wealth.
Baylor University professor Early Grinols calculated that addicted gamblers cost the United States between $32.4 billion to $53.8 billion a year.
Despite the enormous amount of money that goes into the lottery and other gambling venues, it simply increases crime, debt, divorce and problematic health issues.
Perhaps spending a few dollars on a lottery ticket will have no effect on your life. You won’t know until you try, but chances are you’re more likely to become an addict than actually cash in. The odds are against you either way.
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