Lottery is a game where people pay a small amount of money and then have machines randomly select numbers or groups of numbers. The winner gets a larger sum of money if the numbers or groups of numbers match those that are drawn. The game has been around since ancient times and has provided financing for a wide variety of projects. Some examples include units in a subsidized housing block or kindergarten placements at a reputable public school.
But the biggest reason for lottery’s popularity is the promise of instant riches. People can see the mega-sized jackpots on billboards and their mobile phones, and they want to take a chance that they will be the lucky one who hits it big.
So, in order to increase their odds, people do some crazy things. Some play every single combination, which is not a feasible choice for a huge lottery like Mega Millions or Powerball — it would cost you hundreds of millions of dollars to buy all those tickets. However, for smaller state level lotteries that have fewer tickets to sell and a much smaller jackpot, people have actually managed it. One famous example is Stefan Mandel, a mathematician who won 14 consecutive lottery drawings by raising money from investors and then buying all the possible combinations of numbers.
So, what does this say about the real motivations of lottery players? Certainly, people do just plain like to gamble. But there’s a deeper, more troubling message in the way that lotteries promote themselves: they are dangling the prospect of instant wealth in an era of inequality and limited social mobility.