Why Playing the Lottery is Stupid

Lottery is Stupid

More than half of Canadians play the lottery regularly. Are you one of these people?

If so, please stop. Playing the lottery is stupid. Here’s why:

The odds of winning the lottery are about 1 in 85 million.

According to a Harris/Decima poll for Scotiabank, 5% of Canadians assume that they will be rich by winning the lottery. When Canadians between the ages of 45-64 spoke with Environics Research for TD Waterhouse, 32% said they expected to win the lottery.

Not just a $5, $10 or $100 prize – no, they expected that they would win the jackpot. The whole she-bang.

That is just plain crazy. Like I mentioned above, the odds of winning are right around 1 in 85 million. You have a better chance of getting stuck by lightening – twice – than winning the lottery.

Buying lottery tickets is the equivalent of flushing money down the toilet.

You may argue that “it’s only $1 for the hope of winning big”, but the reality is that you are not likely to win big. The lottery is the worst bet you can possibly make because the chances of winning are slim to none.

Gambling should not be seen as a form of entertainment. By throwing money away (which is essentially what you are doing when playing the lottery), you are greatly risking your financial future.

What to do with your money instead…

If you come into extra money, don’t rush out to buy a lottery ticket. Instead, do one (or more) of these things:

  • Contribute to an RRSP. Don’t assume that the lottery is going to pay for your retirement. You are responsible for your future, so you are the one that needs to pay for it.

    Save as much money as possible in an RRSP so that when you retire, you will have a bunch of cash to do with what you please. And remember, the earlier you start saving, the better off you will be down the road.

  • Pay off all debts. Of course, before you can truly be free to enjoy your life completely, you need to rid yourself of all debt that may be looming over you.

    Credit cards, car loans, lines of credit, your mortgage – pay it off. Every last penny. There is no greater feeling than knowing you don’t owe anyone anything. You must experience this type of freedom. Get your debts paid off as soon as you possibly can.

  • Contribute to a TFSA. Every year, you are entitled to save $5,000 in a tax-free savings account. I encourage you to do this each and every year to save yourself money in taxes.

    This amount applies to every person, so that means that everyone in your home is able to set aside this amount. If you are married, or in a committed relationship, that is $10,000 (combined) that you can save, tax-free, every year, toward your goals.

  • Invest. Consider investing your money in CDs, GICs or even high-interest savings accounts (like ING Direct).
    You are much more likely to make money by investing, than buying lottery tickets and crossing your fingers that you win millions or billions of dollars. Just remember to invest conservatively.

Lottery associations bring in around $8 billion dollars annually. Stop contributing to this nonsense and instead, save your money yourself. You’ll be much better off, I promise.

Don’t expect to win big with a lottery ticket, because chances are, you won’t. Ever.

Do you buy lottery tickets? Why or why not?


  1. Destinie

    i don’t play regularly, but occasionally. It’s more of it’s a nice thing to dream about thing, my DH and I talk about all the good we could do if we won a huge jackpot. I prefer to buy tickets for the hospital lotteries over lotto max/649’s. At least my money’s going to a good cause πŸ™‚

  2. Wendi

    Totally Agree! Selling hope to the masses.

    If I felt the need to buy some hope I’d buy the Cancer Lotteries through the hospitals. That way I get the hope of winning and the money gets used for research.

  3. Holly

    I can think of many other things in this world that are “stupid” and a waste of money. Some people dream of winning the lottery and a $5 ticket here or there may help them cope with real issues that are going on in their lives(as long as it doesn’t get out of control). We all have things we splurge on and shouldn’t judge one another.

  4. Pamela @ FabulousSavings.ca

    Have to agree with you – the odds of winning the lottery are too high for me. I’ve never once bought a ticket for myself, personally. Sometimes I admit I’m tempted by the whole beginners luck train of thought – but I know that’s not even logical πŸ™‚

  5. Danielle

    I play 2 bucks every week for my office pool. I play because ‘if’ they do win I wont get left behind. I figure 2 bucks every week for 52 weeks is only $104 bucks.. I don’t feel that’s much of a bullet to bite. I get that If I invested it would compound over the life.. but it doesn’t hurt to dream a little.

  6. Maria

    I play the lottery on occasion and I play the hospital lotteries too. I don’t think it’s stupid at all. If you ask someone who has won thousands, even millions in the lottery, I bet they wouldn’t think it was stupid. As another poster mentioned, there are worse things out there to spend your money on πŸ™‚

  7. Arteme

    I personally feel it’s OK to occasionally buy a lottery ticket. Yes, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever win the jackpot. Once in a while I win a small prize, and that feels good. Even provincial-run lotteries benefit charities, hospitals and other good causes (you can verify this on your lottery’s website).

    Saying it’s stupid and throwing your money away seems to me like saying that buying chocolate cake is stupid and throwing your money away. It’s not necessary to our diets, it’s fattening and the pleasure it gives us is fleeting. I say that either lottery or cake are OK occasional indulgences, especially if they get you through rough times.

  8. M

    Geez, your title is so to the point it made me giggle! I don’t see the point of lotteries, either. But that’s just me. I’d rather save the money or use it for a constructive purpose, like buying food for the food bank. What does sadden me is that some percentage of folks who routinely play the lottery are the ones who are least able to part with $1, $2, or $5. I haven’t figured out how society-at-large can better support them but I’d love to determine how.

  9. Sharie

    I play the lottery. You can not win if you don’t play. In the last 2 months I think I bought 1 ticket and won free plays every other time and won $20. So I am technically $14 ahead. I decide how much I am willing to gamble and don’t go past that. If I save $5 with coupons it seems like a reasonable activity to partake in. I am not hardcore about it but it is fun. It isn’t like going to a casino or playing VLT machines. Besides, the extra money from lotteries goes to charities. That can’t hurt.

  10. Lumeena

    If you have a few bucks to spare and you limit yourself to how much you want to spend on lottery , then where’s the harm. You can still do all the other good things with your money like invest etc…as Sharie says, you can’t win if you dont play, trick is to knowing your limits and staying within them.

  11. lynda

    I also play occasionally with a group of friends at work(10 people), I don’t want to be left out if they win. Saying it stupid and throwing your money way, ok ,but its better than throwing MY money else where like smoking and drinking. Everyone has there own way of enjoyment and the feeling of doing it….it just a choice for each of us to make.
    OLG does Give back, so if you wonder where the $$$ goes, maybe its ok to buy a few tickets here and just take alook.

  12. Lori

    There was a winning pool at my work a couple of years ago, 4 people split 40 million. My ex-husbands cousin won 1 million about 10 years ago and last year my second cousin won 2 million. Looks like its getting closer and closer to me. I’ll continue to buy.

  13. Betty

    Playing the lottery is no different than somebody playing bingo, betting on the horses, drinking @ a party, etc. It’s a vice, it’s entertainment. If you want to gamble, it’s your own business. Just put it under you budget of entertainment.

    In addition, even if you lose at the lottery you are still in a sense winning (In Ontario anways; I’m sure it’s the same in the other provinces). buying a lottery ticket is just another way of paying sin taxes to the government. Gov’t then takes those sin taxes & invests that money that you squandered into our health care, community centers, kids’ soccer & hockey teams, etc. & the list goes on. So the public actually benefits by the public squandering money as you put it as that money is reinvested in our communities by the gov’t. The local harness track that I used to work at as a teenager used to not only have to divide up the winnings with the winnters, but also the feds, provincial & municipal gov’ts. They also had a barbecue at the end of the races & all money was donated to the local hospital to buy equipment that they would have liked to have that the gov’t wasn’t willing to pay for. so as far as I can see, it’s a win win situation for all (even the ones who don’t win anything).

  14. Brittany

    People can do whatever they chose with their money. I do not buy general lottery tickets, but I invest my money into the Heart and Stroke Foundation Lottery that they hold annually. My money goes towards a great organization and the odds of winning are 1 out of 3. I do not purchase in the hopes of winning, but to know that my hard earned money is going to help others with their future.

  15. Natalie

    I buy tickets quite regularly, and obviously winning the jackpot would be nice πŸ™‚ However, I also like to hear about people who do win big and can’t help but be excited for them that their lives have changed forever. I do get satisfaction knowing that even if I didn’t win, I helped somebody else win.

  16. TallNFunny

    Lotteries sell the hope of winning huge sums of money at an astronomically high odds against winning. Therefore only people, who do not have much money, are more likely to buy lottery tickets for a better life or to pull themselves out of poverty. Thus, the people who need their hard earned money the most are most likely fooled.

    Lotteries take money from people who have the least amount of money and people who least understand their odds of winning, and redistribute the lottery proceeds to pay for public services just like an optional tax for those who can be fooled. Simple put, the lottery is a “tax on stupidity”.

    In my opinion, governments should not be in the business of deceiving those people who can least afford it.

  17. Theresa

    I have never played the lottery. My sister in law does however and was one of the group of 12 co-workers who won 21 million in penetang ontario. They each received 1.75 million…lump sum, no tax. Sweet!!!! My husband works with a guy whose sister just won $25 million in Orillia a few weeks back.

    An old neighbour of ours won $20 grand, thing is, she spent $100 a week on tickets. Complete insanity.

    I am personally against gambling of all kinds. I suppose if one has money to burn though it would be fun.

  18. tina

    Ok my question to Cassie, how many lottery winners have been struck by lightening before they hit the jackpot πŸ™‚ Or how many people she knows who have been hit by lightening. I don’t know any. I do know people who have won either money, car, etc.

    You have to play first to win anything. I have seen people buy many other things that quite useless. However I am not going to point fingers.

    I don’t think it is stupid to play lottery. It depends on what is your income level. If you don’t like playing that is fine. It is not right to call it stupid. I would have appreciated better choice of words. It is stupid if you are trying to end meet and spending 10 plus dollars per week on lottery. .

  19. Monica

    I’m human, I must admit I also am lured by the thought of instant jackpot. So I play occasionally. What I prefer to contribute to, though, is the Heart and Stroke Lottery. My father-in-law died of a heart attack, and although some of you will say then why don’t you just straight donate so all of the funds go to the research and not just some of it as when buying the lottery to support lottery advertising and such, my answer is, that’s my choice. I’m human. The heart and stroke lottery let’s me have my kicks at a lottery and support a cause at the same time.

  20. Debbie

    I agree with the majority here. It may be “stupid” (kind of offensive choice of words, there) but we can afford the $2 per week my husband spends on the 649 and it gives us the chance to dream. Yes, the odds are extremely low but as they say, “you gotta be in it, to win it” I don’t see $2 per week as a make or break from our weekly budget.

  21. redleaf55

    I don’t but lottery tickets regularly but they are part of my entertainment budget. And I buy the heart and stroke lottery out of my allowance. These parts of the budget are separate and apart from the savings, and debt parts. If I buy a lottery ticket I might not go to a movie but my husband and I get to play “what would we do with 10 million dollars” for a few days which is often more fun.

  22. Linda

    I do regularly play the lotteries. I know it is a long shot, but if I don’t play, it is an impossible shot! I don’t go overboard and buy extra when the jackpots are large, I stick to my regular amount. I also figure, I don’t go to the movies, I don’t eat out, and a few other things, so if I want to have a little vice, this one at least gives me a chance!

  23. Tracey Hoey

    Smoking is stupid. Drinking to excess is stupid. Buying snake oil is stupid. Buying lottery tickets with the expectation of winning is stupid.

    Buying a lottery ticket as a form of entertainment is the same as playing bingo, going to the racetrack or dropping some coins in a slot machine at a casino. It’s not much different from any form of entertainment (reading, seeing a movie, going to a sporting event, playing a video game). Everyone has a different idea of what entertainment is.

    Personally, I only buy lottery tickets as part of a pool (probably $10-20 worth/year). It’s a bonding thing and we have fun seeing if we win a free ticket. We all understand the odds are overwhelmingly against us winning, but it’s the playing that’s fun (therefore, it’s entertainment). That isn’t stupid (well, no more stupid than seeing a baseball or hockey game is).

  24. Jamie

    I completely agree… it’s stupid.

    I do enjoy the comments “I know a guy who won. And I know a friend of a friend who won.” Who cares? Of course there are winners, the point is the ODDS.

    Speaking of odds; to those who say you can’t win without playing, I disagree. Your odds of finding a winning ticket on the ground are about as good as if you play regularly. Either way, not too likely.

  25. Megan

    In your opinion its stupid… but to many its a fun way to take chances at having something greater. There are many more stupid things in this world than lottery. I come to your site to learn about deals and couponing, not to be told things I enjoy are dumb. Please keep your opinion to yourself and don’t put down those of us who don’t mind spending the extra money to buy lotto tickets!!!!!

  26. Phil

    My saying is: If I dont buy a ticket, I can’t win. If I do buy a ticket, I won’t win.

  27. Dawn

    I think you may have possibly messed up on the numbers being as in 2009 there were only 35,000,000 in Canada assuming 1/3 of them are children that are not of age to play leaving 23,333,333 of age player, with (well use the 2 main lotteries in Canada, which have a total of 3 draws a week), and assuming that every single one of those 23,333,333 people played you actually end up with a 1/7,777,777.8 chance of winning each draw! As we know the chance are greater being as not everyone plays.

    While I do not play every draw every week, on occasion I think it’s a nice little reality break to think of ‘What could happens’??

  28. chris

    I find your choice of words offensive. You do realize you are therefore implying that a significant portion of your readers are stupid?

    Perhaps it may have been nicer to say that it’s unwise to play the lottery, (or smoke, or drink or eat to excess).

  29. Jane

    This post seemed a bit angry. I love your tips and coupons deals but this this post seemed really judgemental.

  30. Anna

    OMG….People are soooo easily offended and God forbid that someone express an opinion contrary to theirs especially if it exposes that they do something stupid…Yes “stupid”…

    The list of stupid things people do even though they usually know better(or should) is endless and there is nothing wrong at pointing it out in case someone needed a wake-up call… Some may be fun/pleasurable but they still remain stupid…

    With the information and facts available to all of us the following are true but yet people continue to do too many of them…

    Playing the lottery IS stupid….
    Eating at McDonald IS stupid/unhealthy…
    Eating meat IS stupid/unnecessary…
    Eating and drinking dairy for human beings IS stupid/unnecessary…
    Smoking cigarettes IS stupid…
    Driving drunk IS illegal and stupid…
    Buying puppies/kittens from pet stores IS stupid

    Thanks for sharing Cassie (We love you) and obviously continue to share your thoughts and even providing a wake-up call or two for those of us that need it since it IS your website… πŸ™‚

  31. tina


    “Eating and drinking dairy for human beings IS stupid/unnecessary”.

    your whole response is STUPID. Lady you are out there—-out of norm

  32. Former Torontonian

    I have never bought a lottery ticket for personal reasons but I certainly don’t think I’m any better than people who do. I think I’ve wasted money many times, maybe many times a day. I don’t see how spending a dollar on the lottery is any different than spending a dollar on a useless trinket at the dollar store, paying tax on an FPC that I wasn’t supposed to, or buying that $0.99 chocolate bar.

    The lottery ticket may even be the smarter buy, because buying a useless $1 item will also most times require paying tax. Realistically, some people do win the amount of their ticket back, which is more than I can say for things I buy for a dollar.

    Money is something for people to enjoy. It’s supposed to enrich your life and not just add to my supply of dental floss. When I die, it’s not really going to matter if I had a lottery ticket or an extra box of floss anyways. Even if I put a huge chunk of change in an RRSP, it only has meaning if I live to be older than 65.

    I guess I’ll have to ask the insurance company for those statistics. πŸ™‚

  33. Cheryl

    I would just like to say that what I do with my money is my business..I don’t feel the need to defend any of my purchases..lottery or otherwise. I am sure many people would consider what other people buy to be a waste of money but who are we to judge. Perhaps we could look at our own spending habits before we tell people how “Stupid” theirs are…tell me how your tattoos have helped you save money Cassie..or was that for your enjoyment..to give you pleasure. Something others might consider a foolish waste of money might be worth it to the next person. FYI ..regular lotteries do add funds to the public health system in the province in which you play..not to mention grant money that is given out to various organizations in the community too…also a good cause in my book πŸ™‚

  34. Kim

    I play the lottery weekly hoping to win (hoping ) to win but I don’t ever expect to win and you don’t play you don’t win and someone usually wins because they bought a ticket and I thought a portion of lottery goes to charities and other needs. I do know someone who won a lottery because she bought a ticket.


  35. Nicki

    I kind of agree, if you don’t have the money to spare to begin with then it is a bad idea. However my boyfriends uncle has won $100,000 and a girl I used to work with won $3.5 million. So there is hope for winning

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