If you were a lottery winner, the most important thing you have to do is take control of your newfound wealth. This will mean paying off your debts, setting up savings for college or retirement, diversifying your investments and keeping up a robust emergency fund. But there’s one other big piece of the puzzle that most winners have to deal with: mental health. Plenty of past winners serve as cautionary tales about the psychological impact of sudden wealth and all the changes that come with it.
While most people can agree that winning the lottery is a long shot, there’s a strong belief that somebody has to win it, that if you play enough tickets, you will eventually hit it. That’s why so many people play. And that’s why state lotteries have such broad and deep public support – a majority of Americans say they play regularly.
Most state lotteries are structured like traditional raffles, with players purchasing tickets in advance of a drawing in the future. But innovations in the 1970s dramatically changed the game, introducing instant games (such as scratch-off tickets) with lower prize amounts and much higher odds of winning.
These innovations tapped into a hunger for instant gratification. And they helped fuel a broader, deeper mythology about the lottery as a meritocratic source of wealth, with low incomes lagging far behind high incomes. This regressive dynamic is obscured by the fact that lottery revenues typically expand rapidly after they are introduced and then level off or even decline.