5 Reasons Why Lotteries Are the Worst Gambling Games and 2 Reasons Why They’re The Best!

Do you ever play the lottery? I do. It’s fun, and I like the anticipation of believing it might be me who wins. But, it’s not called an idiot tax for nothing. Of all the popular gambling games out there, the lottery must be the one that brings the least value to players (lotteries do have wider value, but more on that later), and here’s why:

5 Reasons Why Lotteries are the Worst Gambling Games

Bad reason 1: The odds are awful! The absolute worst!

The one thing that’s practically guaranteed if you play the lottery is that, over a lifetime of play, you’re very likely to be down on your money. The odds are awful. Whether you’re playing country-wide lotteries or charity lotteries, your odds of winning even the smallest prize are low.

For example, in many lotteries, the chance of winning the smallest prize (usually a tenner), is around 1 in 100. That’s pretty poor. Imagine you buy one lottery ticket a week; it will take you almost 2-years to win any money. Even then, you have to have average luck to reach that amount. If you’re unlucky, you won’t even win a tenner. If you’re super lucky, you might win a handful of times.

Either way, you’ll be spending between £100 and £200 (depending on the cost of the ticket) to win back £10.

And that’s the lowest/best odds of winning a prize. The next tier up (usually 4-numbers and around £100-prize) gives you a ~1:2000 chance of winning.

Yep, if you’re idea of gambling is to try to play the odds, you’ll be much better off taking an arbitrage training course and getting into sports betting or stock trading.

Bad reason 2: The RTP is TERRIBLE! Argh, it’s the road to ruin, so it is.

With such awful odds, it should come as no surprise to learn that the Return to Player ratio (RTP – or the amount of money players collectively get back compared to the amount of money they collectively put in) is terrible. I mentioned above that to get back £10 you’d have to spend £100 – £200 on average. That’s absolute rot, but the large prizes go some way to making up for actual RTP.

In general, the RTP for lotteries is between 45% and 70%. It depends on the lottery. Some are better than others are. Some councils are thinking of starting their own lotteries, and I expect those to have a fairly high RTP.

Bad reason 3: There’s very little protection for problem gamblers.

When you play UK-based online casinos, they give you a lot of support to help prevent problem gambling. You can self-exclude, set spending and time limits, and get free counselling. Depending on the lottery, this isn’t always going to be the case.

For example, if you can buy tickets for the lottery in a shop, the till worker doesn’t have any obligation/right to ask you about your financial situation or to make sure that you’re spending within your means. I personally think that’s a good thing because it would be weird as heck if they could.

Imagine going to the shop for a lotto ticket and a pint of milk, and the person behind the till asks how well off you are? Please, not in front of the neighbours, for goodness sake.

But it is bad in a sense because it means that you can spend silly amounts of money on lottery tickets and there’s nothing to help you curb your compulsions. I have a friend who spent hundreds on scratch cards in one sitting – it’s a lot of fun but a big waste of money.

Bad reason 4: There’s no skill involved

For many of us, the joys of gambling aren’t just in the win, but in the play itself. A lottery is never going to satisfy the inner gamer in you. It might be fun picking the numbers, but that’s about it.

Some people think that you can game it a little bit by doing complicated spreadsheets about which numbers are overdue.

Unfortunately, statistics don’t work like that and each new game resets the odds. A number that HASN’T come out 10x in a row is no more likely to come out this time than a number that HAS come out for the last 10x in a row. It’s tempting to think the odds change in that way, but they don’t, and particular numbers are no more or less likely to come out based on their past performance.

Bad reason 5: You can’t play for very long

Most lotteries run between once-a-month and three or four times a week. You certainly can’t spend hours playing the lottery the same way you can spend hours playing slots, blackjack or poker.

If you’re looking for a few hours’ worth of entertainment, lottery games aren’t the right choice for you.

2 Reasons Why Lotteries Are The Best Gambling Games

Good Reason 1: Good Causes

This is probably the best reason to play any gambling game. Many lotteries spend a good proportion of their revenue on good causes. In fact, I think that might be the definition of a lottery – at least in UK law.

There are some fantastic lotteries around and they allow you to both give money to charity to support a good cause AND give you the chance of winning a prize.

Two of my favourite UK lotteries are:

    1. Alder Hey Children’s Charity Lottery– it’s just a good cause, isn’t it?
    2. Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance Lottery – I live in Hampshire, but there are other Air Ambulance lotteries around the country. The reason I play this one is that Air Ambulances in the UK don’t get any government funding (Yes, you read that right. Air Ambulance services in the UK are charity-funded).

You probably won’t win, but if you give to charity anyway, might as well have some fun with it.

Good Reason 2: If You Do Win (You Won’t) You (Might) Win a Lot

Lotteries probably have the best prizes of all the gambling games. If you win the top prize, you win big. The anticipation of that big win is half the fun of playing lotteries. I like nothing more than buying a lottery ticket then checking out the estate agents to see which mansion I should buy.

Summing It All Up

So lotteries aren’t all bad, and, in fact, they can do a lot of good. And, even though they do have some bad points, I still play them from time-to-time because it’s fun to dream big, and even if the odds are stacked against me, there’s still a chance of winning. The important thing to remember is to buy one or two tickets at a time and always keep in mind that it’s a bad investment.

Only play lotteries for entertainment and charity purposes and never to make money.

A picture of a lottery ticket with green dollar bill cartoons around it.