The Dangers of Playing the Official Lottery

Official lottery, like all forms of gambling, is an inherently irrational activity. But it also creates a sense of hope, an emotion that can be dangerous in the long term, and that is particularly potent among those who are vulnerable to addiction.

The first lotteries to offer tickets for a fixed prize of cash or goods were organized in the Low Countries in the fifteenth century, where towns held public lotteries to raise money for town fortifications and charity for the poor. In the seventeenth century, the Dutch state-owned Staatsloterij began operations, and it is now one of the oldest continuously running lotteries in the world.

In the United States, there are 48 different state lotteries, and each operates independently. State-level lottery games are popular and lucrative, generating more than $100 billion in annual sales. While the American public embraces the concept of winning the jackpot, there are also some significant drawbacks to playing the official lottery.

Lottery wins can change people in profound ways. For some, the sudden wealth can bring on a host of emotional problems, including gambling addiction, self-delusion, depression and even kleptomania. And it can create family and business conflicts. Family members you haven’t seen in years suddenly want to hang out, and some of them may be angling for a piece of your winnings. In addition, lottery winners are often subject to tax withholdings. These amounts can add up quickly. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help manage these challenges and avoid losing your hard-earned windfall.