How to Win the Lottery

The casting of lots for decisions and determining fates has a long history, including biblical instructions to Moses to conduct a census of Israel and divide the land by lot; the use of lotteries to give away property and slaves during Saturnalian feasts; and the early American public lottery established by the Continental Congress to raise funds for Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, King’s College (now Columbia) and William and Mary. State lotteries are typically launched by legislation establishing a government monopoly and creating a state agency or public corporation to run it; they often begin with a modest number of relatively simple games; but they tend to expand in size and complexity, particularly in the form of new games, in response to pressure for additional revenues.

Because they are run as businesses, the emphasis of lottery advertising is on persuading target groups to spend their money on the chance of winning. This promotional approach raises two issues: 1) whether promoting gambling is an appropriate function for state governments, and 2) whether it creates negative social consequences such as those experienced by the poor, problem gamblers and others.

Most states offer a choice between a fixed number of tickets and a random selection of numbers. Those who choose the fixed ticket will need to select all the numbers on their playslip, but those who want to maximize their chances of winning will want to avoid selecting numbers that end with the same digit or numbers in a grouping. Richard Lustig, who has won the lottery seven times and 14 times a year, recommends that lottery players research all possible combinations to find their best number.