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Should You Play the Lottery?

In the 17th century, it was common in some parts of the world for lotteries to be used as a way to raise money for public projects. Lotteries helped finance roads, canals, churches, schools, and more. They were also hailed as a painless form of taxation. Benjamin Franklin even managed to use a lottery to raise funds for his city’s defenses. George Washington participated in a few as well, and his rare tickets are collectors items today.

These days, people in the US spend upwards of $100 billion on lottery tickets each year. The reason for this is in part that people like to gamble, but there’s more going on here than that. Lottery games dangle the promise of instant riches, and they play on our inextricable desire for hope.

In fact, the odds of winning a lottery are often quite low. And when you factor in the huge taxes that need to be paid, it’s not a very good investment. What’s more, it takes away from other investments that could make your life much better in the long run, such as saving for retirement or paying down debt. Fortunately, you can improve your odds by looking for lotteries with fewer balls or a smaller range of numbers. Those changes will dramatically increase your chances of winning, but you should keep in mind that the odds still won’t be very high. In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether or not to play.

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