How come with all the web pages on the net dealing with lotteries (see Yahoo!'s lottery page or this huge list of lottery links), virtually none of them tell you what a terrible gamble betting on a lottery is?

Sure, I occasionally play the lottery. For a few bucks, you get some excitement. I don't really expect to win.

Someone has called the lottery a stupidity tax. "The more stupid you are, the more you pay." I like that.

There was a very good article on lotteries in Consumers' Research, March, 1996, by James Walsh, entitled "Why Do People Play The Lottery?" Here is a sidebar from that article:

Lotteries and Other Forms of Gambling

The odds in a lottery are worse than other forms of gambling. But those other forms are also slanted toward the people running the games.

Casinos have something called the vig (short for vigorish), meaning the advantage the house enjoys on so-called "even money" and "true odds" bets, on which you're paid, respectively, what you've bet or an amount proportional to your risk.

In horse racing, you bet against everyone else at the track, and typically, the house takes 17% of all money bet. With breakage (the house rounds every payoff down to the nearest dime), add another 2%. That's 19% you have to overcome before breaking even.

These little numbers are the percentages of defeat built into every casino game, or horse race you bet on. In the long run, you will receive back the following number of cents for every dollar gambled on the game listed.

Casino Betting

Baccarat 98.8-85.9 Blackjack Normal 90-80 Perfect Strategy 98.8-98 Strict Card Counting $1-98 Craps Normal Bets 98.6-83.3 Single Odds 99.2 Double Odds 99.4 Ten Times Odds $1 Keno 70.5 Roulette 94.7 Slot Machines 98-65

Sports Betting

Football and Basketball Single Bets 95.4 Two-Bet Parlays 90 Three-Bet Parlays 87.5 Four-Bet Parlays 68.7 Horse Racing 81




Critical discussion

The lotteries' perspective

"Hands-on" demos

A Word to the Wise...

This page last updated June 25, 2015 (January 31, 2019 to fix links).