Does Winning the Lottery Improve Your Subjective Well-Being?

In the United States, many state governments run lotteries. Lottery is a form of gambling that involves picking numbers to win a prize. People spend over $80 billion on lottery tickets each year. Purchasing a ticket costs money that could be used for other things, such as paying off debt, building an emergency fund, or paying for retirement or college tuition.

The idea of making decisions and determining fates by casting lots has a long record in human history, but the use of lotteries to distribute material wealth is much more recent. Public lotteries have been held as far back as the time of Augustus Caesar for municipal repairs in Rome and as recently as 1776, when Benjamin Franklin sponsored a lottery to raise funds for cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British.

Most modern lotteries offer a “random betting” option that lets players mark a box on their playslip to indicate that they will accept the computer-generated set of numbers for their bet. This can save time, and it also eliminates the need to keep track of which numbers have been picked and which remain.

Increasingly, the jackpots of state-sponsored lotteries are becoming so large that they earn huge amounts of free publicity on news sites and broadcasts. This, in turn, helps drive the number of people who buy tickets. Some of these people go on to win, and when they do it can be a life-changing event. However, the evidence is mixed on whether winning the lottery improves winners’ subjective well-being.