The Lottery: Is It Ever Worth Playing?

Have had this conversation with a couple of friends, and I wanted to know if my reasoning is flawed. As clearly stated on Internet, the lotto is, a.) in general, a tax on poor people, b.) of an infinitesimally tiny chance of winning, and c.) a tremendous waste of money.

All that applies above, but with the caveat of saying, '…except for buying one ticket'.

Because your chances of winning are so absurdly low, and you almost certainly will not win, so buying more than one ticket makes no sense whatsoever. Having said that, if you buy zero tickets, you have no chance at all of winning.

One ticket (infrequently bought, say, once a year) buys you in for the possibility that you might win. You won't, but you might. It's like qualification, and, at the cost of $5.00 (or whatever small monetary amount), it's a small price to pay for the chance.

If you don’t buy your tickets you definitely will not win.
It could happen to you, It probably won’t but it could.

What are your thoughts?

Poll Options

  • 44
    You're essentially throwing the money away. I never purchase them.
  • 47
    I play it occasionally for the thrill of the draw and that is providing me with an adrenaline rush.
  • 9
    I purchase the lottery to make money/ get rich.


  • +15 votes

    The only people who make money out of the lottery are the people who run it.

    If you enjoy the thrill of watching the draw holding a ticket dreaming of what you'd buy, and you think that's worth $X a week then that's fine. You're paying for entertainment. But since this is ozbargain I'd try do the dreaming without the ticket and see if you find it just as fun.

    Just don't kid yourself that you're actually going to win.


    It's not a tax on poor people (it's not a tax) but the phrase is usually that it's a tax on stupidity.

    That said I play occasionally if a jackpot is tens of millions.

    I been a problem gambler in the past, didn't lose a house or anything like that but I was spending far too much money on it. Playing lottery is not a thrill for me, probably because I hardly ever win and when I have it's nothing to talk about.


      As unfortunate as it is, it tends to be mainly poor people stupid enough to give away the money they can't afford to…. not that there aren't rich stupid people too, but I believe gambling is a symptom of someone who isn't going to keep their money for long.

  • +3 votes

    You’re more likely to win an Oscar or become a successful Olympian than winning the lottery.

    Also more chance of:

    • Dying in a car crash
    • Being eaten by a shark
    • Being struck by lightning
    • Being killed by a cow
    • +3 votes

      But…I don't go in the sea so my chance of being eaten by a shark is zero.
      I also don't go in fields with cows so that's also zero.
      The chance of winning the lotto is better than being struck by lighting. Very few people are killed each year in Australia (about 5-10) but there's at least one jackpot winner each week.

      I do gamble and I know the odds of winning. I'll play when the expected return to player is more than 100%. Finding that elusive bet is extremely rare.

      • +1 vote

        Mate, you'll never know when sharks will come out a tornado and eat you where you stand. Or a cow on the loose comes for you. The chances of some final destination sh!t happening to you is pretty much 0. So is winning the lottery.


        I'll play when the expected return to player is more than 100%.

        Unless it's a situation like the one I linked below, this will never be the case*. The odds of you winning the lottery are the same per ticket because there's no fixed payout - it's always possible that absolutely no one wins.

  • +2 votes

    In fact, the expected payoff was sometimes positive: When a roll-down happened, there was at least $2.30 waiting in prize money for every $2.00 ticket sold.

    But normally, no. It's a pipe dream, worth it if you want the illusion of hope, than if you actually want money.


      Exactly what I was going to say - only when there is a positive expectation (which is extremely rare). Same goes for any sort of gambling really.

      (Not to say I don't do it, but treat it as a entertainment cost rather than an investment).


    The origins of the lottery are rather interesting.

    Before the state ran lotteries criminals use to operate so called numbers games. They'd take money and a set of number choices from
    everyone and then pay back an agreed amount if the numbers matched some third party published random numbers which depends on the locality.

    Numbers games were popular, widely accepted and widespread but more so in low socio-economic communities.

    They were so widely accepted in fact that thee state decided to create their own, better alternative in order to avoid criminalising large swathes of the population.

  • +2 votes

    Set a weekly target, an amount you don't mind losing (if it were to fall out of your pocket accidentally). That way you don't burn your pocket and still run (the extremely low) risk of winning.

    If you don't play, you definitely don't win
    If you play, who knows its in your stars


      I don't think that's a very good mindset because it's behaving as though there is a chance of winning.

      Of course there's a chance of winning but it's so small that to behave as though there is a chance is foolish.


        its probably 10 a week…its not going to take my far anyways…

        but if it has to strike…that will be a awesome


      I subscribe to this kind of philosophy when it comes to lotto. The potential upside is huge so I'll try to have some skin in the game. $8.55 a week for a bit of entertainment and some fun day dreams. I have had some minor wins too which is nice.


    Is It Ever Worth Playing?

    I feel this comes down to your definition of "worth" really, and your mindset. You could argue that something being "worth it" means paying money and receiving an equal amount back, whether thats money or fun or rush or enjoyment of playing.

    For some people its probably worth it just up until the numbers come out and they lose and then the remorse lol, from a financial point of view though I'd argue not worth it, since the money you spend has too large of a risk that it doesn't pay off within a lifetime.

    Still though, for some the lotto gives 'hope' to get out of where they're in, some random told me once when I started working full time that if I'm playing lotto more and more I probably dislike my job or life, I found it interesting because when things are bad at work I find myself playing more, while when I'm loving work lotto doesn't ever cross my mind haha.

    But I can afford to spend a small amount for the few seconds of hope and rush I get in hoping I become rich lol I waste money in many areas for enjoyment and I see this as one of them


    Tickets can make good gifts. I always ring my aunty and thank her for the $xx,000 she sends me for my birthday in scratchies and we have a good chuckle.

    Our work syndicate got $60 each one year (I can't remember how much we put in!) and the lotto players didn't have to pitch any extra cash in at Christmas lunch time.

  • +1 vote

    The Lottery: Is It Ever Worth Playing?


    human needs to have a dream to stay alive


    I occasionally buy a ticket for myself, maybe once a year but we buy a group ticket at work fairly regularly. I don't go in that one because I want to or enjoy it, I just would hate to be the only person left at work after a big win.

    Having said that half the team would quit on a much smaller amount than me so I would still be in my job and have many people quit if we only won a million each.


    On a weekly basis - no.

    when the prize is over 30 mill - probably.

    when the prize is over 50 mill and you feeling specially lucky on that day - yes.

    Is it worth it? ask the 2 persons that won $100 mill powerball recently. I reckon it's worth it as long as you have fun with it and have a sense of thrill when buying it.


    As many above have mentioned, this depends on your definition of 'worth'

    From a mathematical stand point, the odds of winning are always less than the chance multiplied by your buy in. . That's the essence of all forms of gambling, they do the maths and the house takes a cut. If the odds were in your favor no one would ever offer it or if they did and it was 'worth it' in that sense then some investment bank would buy out all the tickets Remember that lotteries and casinos are a business. Pubs don't put in pokies to give money back.

    If your idea of 'worth' is that 'for X days I get to dream what would happen if I won the lottery' then sure! You're no better or worse off than if you went to the movies or to the pub and spent the money elsewhere. Just never do it thinking you're going to win big.

    So for some, its part of their regular entertainment. For others you wait until a particularly big jackpot - this isn't going to increase the chance of your win, but does increase the 'thrill', which is what you're really buying. When they hit jackpots over $50mil I'll have a look and a think. I know I'm not going to win any money but every now and then I'll spend the money and have a dream until I crash back to earth.

  • +1 vote

    The odds may be low but somebody has to win it. Why does it have to be the guy in the next suburb over when it can be you?


    Factor in the enjoyment of indulging the delusion that you might win, in the period between buying the ticket and the draw. It's cheaper than most delusions at the level I imagine most people play the lotteries.


    I have a running 4 game slikpik in Saturday lotto. Costs me $2.85/week, $148/yr. If I'm fortunate enough to reach the average life expectancy of 82yo I'll be out of pocket around $8,300 from today. Peanuts in the grand scheme of things yet if lightning strikes I could walk away set for life. Every week a handful of Australians win millions in lotto, why can't it one day be one of us.


    My dad plays it fervently. No matter how many times experts say the chances are rediculously low, the fact that people still hit jackpot will always compel them to keep on playing. Case of someone gotta win, could be me.

    If you got the money, think it's harmless to play. Obviously don't if you are gonna spend significant amount of your weekly budget on it.


    Life would be pretty boring if we didn't take a chance every now and again.

    We probably won't win a big prize and be able to retire, but someone will, and if we don't ever buy a ticket we definitely won't win a prize, however slim the chances are.

    If you can afford it go for it I say.


    If everybody put enough into lottery, we could do away with income tax. Everyone else pays tax and with a smile on their face :)

  • +4 votes

    My mate spends $80pw buying lunch and coffee. That's more stupid than playing the lotto IMO.

  • +1 vote

    trying to get rich playing lotto is like trying to commit suicide by flying commercial airlines.


      The only gambling that I do is arbitrage betting. Can't lose but still get heaps of fun out it. But the bookies do not like it!


    Only worth it if you win.


    Only gambling i ever do is black jack and NBA bets, so far from playing black jack it on occasion my grand tally is up $900 , (mind you i only ever play the minimum table i.e. $20, and always take out my initial investment so thus never making a loss, if i lose on the first hand i always walk away - never chase loses) and NBA betting up $4320