The Lottery: Big Money, Big Problems

Lottery tickets on sale at Bangkok's Ratchadamnoen Avenue.
Photo by Timo Koslowski, via Flickr

Robin Basselin and Adam Navis look at lottery games. Can they help people? Or do they harm people?


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Robin Basselin.

Voice 2

And I'm Adam Navis. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

William Post did not have an easy life. His mother died when he was young. After that, his father sent him away. When he grew up, he worked any job he could find. One day, William had only 40 dollars. He decided to spend all 40 dollars on a chance to win a lot of money in the lottery.

Voice 2

William Post's life changed that day. He won 16 million dollars! He thought his life would now be perfect. But later he described his win this way,

Voice 3

"Every person dreams of winning money. But no one understands the problems. They come from places you cannot even see."

Voice 1

William's life did change after winning, but in a bad way. He spent a lot of money on things he did not need. He bought houses, cars, and televisions. Everyone began to ask him for money. People even took him to court to get it. William lost all his money. Today, he lives alone. He says that the money did not make his life better or easier.

Voice 3

"I was much happier when I did not have any money."

Voice 2

Today's Spotlight is on the lottery. Lotteries are a popular kind of gaming. There are different ways to decide the winner of a lottery, but the basic rules are the same. People buy a ticket or piece of paper with numbers on it. Then the winning numbers are chosen by chance. If your numbers are the same as the winning numbers, you receive the prize money.

Voice 1

There are lotteries all around the world. Many lotteries are managed by the government. Most of these lotteries give some of the money raised by ticket sales for education, roads, or other government programs. In large lotteries, this can be millions of dollars.

Voice 2

However, some people argue that these lotteries do not actually help a country. These people admit that lotteries provide money for social programs. But a government may not give as much tax money to social programs because of the lottery money. Then, if the lottery stops, or if people play less, the programs will not survive.

Voice 1

But government lotteries are not the only kind of lottery. There are also illegal lotteries. People print pieces of paper that look like real lottery tickets. But they never declare a winner. They keep the money. Other illegal lotteries may declare a winner, but only award a small amount of the money collected. Because illegal lotteries are not managed by the government, the people running them can do whatever they want.

Voice 2

More and more, illegal lotteries are using the internet. A person may get an e-mail inviting them into a world-wide lottery. Some times the e-mail says that the person has already won! They only need to go to a website and buy a chance to win. But like the lottery with false tickets, this illegal lottery will not give anyone prize money.

Voice 1

Imagine you had an extra ten dollars each week. You are thinking about playing a lottery. The idea of winning millions of dollars is tempting. You could do a lot of things if you won. You could help a lot of people. And it would be nice not to have to worry about earning money. So, is it a good idea for you to play that lottery?

Voice 2

It is important to understand the chances of winning. The reason that most lotteries can offer so much money is because the chance of winning is so small. One of the largest lotteries in the world is called Mega Millions. It only costs one dollar to play. And it offers very large prizes. However, the chance of winning the highest prize is one in 175 million. To win a smaller prize, like 150 dollars, the chances are a little better: one in 14,000.

Voice 1

Here is a comparison. A person is more likely to be hit by lightning, or killed by a dog than to win the lottery. For every kilometre a person drives in a car, they are six times more likely to be killed than to win a lottery like Mega Millions.

Voice 2

If there is so little chance of winning, why do people continue to play? One reason is that many lottery games have additional prizes of one or two dollars. When people play the lottery these small wins make them feel good. They remember the wins and forget the losses.

Voice 1

Also, studies show that poor people buy more lottery tickets than rich people. Many poor people do not understand how unlikely it is they will win. Even if they do, they may play the lottery anyway. It may be that poor people do not have the resources to help themselves. They may play the lottery for an emotional reason. They may see the lottery as their only hope for a better future.

Voice 2

But the lottery is not the only thing people can do with money. Over a long time, saving money can add up. If a person took the ten dollars they spend on lottery tickets and saved it, after 20 years they would have over 10,000 dollars. If that 10,000 dollars was invested wisely, it could increase to 30,000 dollars. This is not millions of dollars, but it is real money! And it could help pay for a home or an education.

Voice 1

Everyone wonders what will happen in the future. We think that by winning the lottery, we will know that our future will be great. But money cannot prevent accidents from happening. It cannot stop people from getting sick. The story of William Post shows that money can solve some problems, but it causes other problems. What can we do when we worry about the future?

Voice 2

Money does have a place in our life. But it should not be the centre. Many Christians believe that their future is in the hands of God. Bad things will still happen. But God will walk with us in our struggles. This offers more than winning any lottery.

Voice 1

The writer and producer of this program was Adam Navis. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. Computer users can hear our programs, read our scripts, and see our word list on our website at This program is called "The Lottery: Big Money or Big Problem?"

Voice 2

If you have a comment or question for Spotlight you can email us. Our email address is We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Thank you for listening. Goodbye!


Do you play the lottery? Do you think these games are good or bad?


Avatar Spotlight
said on July 05, 2011

Hello everyone and good evening all people who live in the beautiful world. Very good theme you have chose. I think if William Post spent his money right way he still was be happy. But he just didn’t know what he could do with them.Yearly when I was about 13 years i tried play in the lottery but I never win and i decided stop to play. People who organized the lottery earn money and they always will have more money then other people who play in this game. I understood it and just stoped to play I better go and by more soft things than I buy lottery’s ticket.

Avatar Spotlight
said on July 07, 2011

I also think if people were become rick easily, they would always spoil themselves to evil things. Lottery is like a game. They can win or loose million dollars. Most of millionaire who gain from lottery, have a bad ending and in the end, they always realize that the money is not the most important thing in their life. Besides, lottery is a game so God can frustrate from what they get cause God follows our phrase in every our life. So, take it easy and control our life, our way to think and to carry on…!!!. Thank spotlight for sharing this topic.
P/s: I wanna tell a story about a old man from the south of my country who win the lottery. in the past, he is too abjectly poor and miserable. he is used to be beggar in some places. One day, he became as rick as he ever believe. But from this winning day, he often get trouble. Many people all around him, including cousins, or strangers come to his house to ark the money. They always create a story so that they get sympathy from him and money from his pocket. They brother him every minute of time. One another problem is that he is too old to go far for travel or relax. He even don’t know how to spend this money. In the end, he wish he get a peace in a moment….So, money don’t make people happy or easier and God will decide what will we be…Finally,
Let it be :)!!!!

Avatar Spotlight
said on January 04, 2015

I can’t listen the program or download this.

Avatar Spotlight
said on January 06, 2015

i can not listen, spotlight need fix

Learning Everything's avatar
Learning Everything
said on January 07, 2015

Some times, I bought a lottery in my country. A lot of poor person who walked a long of street and invited everyone to buy it. The 1st objective when i bought a lottery is helping their life. The 2nd objective, if I win a prizes. I will be using that money to help a children with out family’s school. So now I still buying Mega Lottery for the 2nd objective because in the United States, a lottery were sold by lottery machine. Funny question can I ask: what is the 1st thing do you do when you win a big prize?

Avatar Spotlight
Diem Nguyen
said on January 07, 2015

I don’t play lottery because I think it wastes money. I can buy tickets most of my life, but i may never win.

Avatar Spotlight
said on January 10, 2015

Surely, money has an important place in our life but winning a lot of money may not mean our future life will be happy without problems. I suppose playing lottery represents a sort of dependence and it sometimes can lead people to the high losses just as the different difficulties generally. I think regular saving the small amount of money shows to be the much more dependable method than playing lottery games at all events.

Avatar Spotlight
said on January 13, 2015

More people buy lottery tickets everyday in my country to hope to win lottery for changing their life especially poor people.But I never do that.I think winning lottery is only lucky.If all of us always wait for winning much money for easier life without labor,Country economic won’t develop and social evil will gain more and more.Work is glory!

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 24, 2015

in the past, I have ever played lottery, but now I don’t play lottery, I think It is bad for me. It makes me waste of money and waste of time, When I win I can be attractive to continue to play until I lose out of Money. It not real Money,.

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 07, 2016

Hello me again !

Lottery sells dreams to people, especially poor people,it’s kind of mocking !But on the other side, sometimes spending the profits of lotteries for some humanitarian services, there is no problem to be a kind of entertainment and to contribute the humanitarian work !

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 11, 2016

Lottery is a gift of god but it is not for poor people, it is for rich people.
I often buy lottery with only reason, it help people who sell lottery a lot of joys.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on April 13, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight
Subject: to answer to the question above
Date: Wednsday 13, April 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Robin Basselin and Adam Navis:

I want to thank for more one great issue that you have developed for us. Yes, I do. Sometimes, I play the lottery. Yes, I do. I think it good because if I ,or anyone won this prize, it would be wonderful.  However, the lottery; big Money can bring big problems. For example: If the winner does not know how to use the money.  Thanks!

All the best,
Severino Ramos

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on July 03, 2016

I think that the lottery is good idea in one side because it making the people living in HOPE in future but its bad in onther side where its a chance fo coperation especially in govrnment of the third world.
I did not play the lottery because in not exsisting in my country (Yemen) because its “HARAM or NOT HALAL” in Islamic law.
I knew the lottery in onother countries, such as Syria when I live there or Ethiopia when I live now but I could and cant play lottery because it is exculosive for nationalities people.
God bless you

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 21, 2018

I have ever played the lottery ? I don’t think it’s bad thing when you understand and don’t over-play. We can play once a month and don’t expect that you have to win. But when we win, we have quite much money to start up, you can do as you dream.

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 22, 2018

Hello Spotlight team! This is my first comment here, but I usually hear the spotlight program every day in the morning, for more than 1 year.  Well, answering the question, I never play the lottery, and for me, the money which easy comes, easy goes. I also don’t believe that our government here in Brazil, gives the right destination for the money earned with the lottery. There are vast cases of corruption in different sectors of the government, why it would be different in the lottery?

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 22, 2018

We respect beautiful good values. We respect true values. We live a beautiful good life. We live to be good persons. We may succeed in life. We may fail in life. We live a beautiful good life with all our effort. We live to be good persons with all our effort. There is success and there is failure in life. We look for meaning of life. We live our lives for beautiful good things. We die for beautiful good things.

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 23, 2018

Actually, i play it once. But i think it is for fun. I don’t think it is helpful because many people lost all their money, they even get a lot of debts.  That make their family broken.

Avatar Spotlight
Gabriel Vicençotto
said on March 27, 2018

Lots of people like to play the lottery in Brazil. Even though the possibility to earn a great amount of money is small, people keep playing this game. Once in a while, I like to bet on lotteries, However, I do not know if this kind of game is good for my country or if it increases my country’s wealth.