It's About Far More Than Just Winning Millions
Why We Love The Lottery
Why do we bet on the lottery? Well the answer is obvious, right? To win millions! Ah, well... In actual fact that's just one reason, but not necessarily the main one. Recent scientific research tells a different story – there are other psychological and neurological reasons why we take part the lottery, and have done for millennia. You won't be able to guess them though, but I guarantee once you know what they are they'll make perfect sense and you won't ever look at the lottery the same way again.
The World's Greatest Game
The lottery is the world's greatest game. No other game has captured the dreams and imagination of humanity so much, for so long. As games go it's one of the world's most ancient, mentioned time and time again throughout world history, and remains as popular a pastime as ever.
Enjoyed by millions, who play for millions – even, strangely enough, rich people who have made their millions already.
Such is the allure of the lottery; even when you have achieved "end game", the dreams themselves are unending.
When we refer to the lottery as being fun we don't mean the actual process. Let's not confuse the rollercoaster with the queue to get on it. With lotteries the fun doesn't really start until after you've picked your numbers – when your mind starts to wander…
Why Do We Play The Lottery?
When people are asked why they play the lottery the answers are usually the same the world over; buying a new home, paying of debts, retiring early, investing, being able to take care of family and loved ones without ever again worrying about the future…
These are the simple, practical, everyday reasons we play, though, as any of those advertising and marketing madmen will tell you, our purchases and transactions are rarely based on rational choices. Psychologically speaking, they're incidental when compared to our deeper, subconscious attraction to those seemingly impossible lottery jackpots.
Is it greed? No. When pressed most players will admit that, although the material rewards are strong incentives, it’s dreaming about the win that provides the strongest incentive.
According to Daniel Levine, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Arlington, "fantasizing about winning the lottery activates the same parts of our brains that would be activated if we actually won."
Now, if there's one thing we don't do enough of, as adults, it's daydream. Which is a pity because it's good for us.
A big lottery jackpot tends to change that, though. Some games tax our minds, others strain our muscles, but no other game gives our imagination such a thorough workout as the lottery.
If I Won The Lottery…
Remember when you used to daydream all the time – even when the grownups specifically told you not to? You used to do it in school constantly, at work too, least a little bit, though not as much these days.
As a child there are no barriers; if you can imagine something you can attain it. As an adult you become painfully aware of these barriers. The lottery is that one wrecking ball that can smash all those barriers to dust.
Want to ride in a limo? Why travel any other way?
Here it comes now, gliding up to the kerb to meet you. You're about to reach for the door when a look of momentary horror flashes across your chauffeur's face and he does it for you.
You're not sure how much to tip the chauffeur – nobody ever told you this. Only a few days earlier you were just like him, just another regular nine-to-fiver. There's that awkwardness, still trying to make small-talk, struggling with the fact that you're meant to act like a bigshot, but don't know how.
This is about as close as you get to worrying about things nowadays.
You soon forget about it though. Floating through the streets in a jet black Bentley insulated from the outside world, peering out through tinted windows, cocooned in soft cocoa-coloured leather, the ping of a champagne flute – "cheers!". You take a sip, perfectly-chilled bubbles dancing on the tip of your tongue. Eventually the city lights fade as the Bentley eases onto the motorway en route to the airport – next stop St. Tropez.
Fantasy/Reality – there's only about six or seven numbers in the difference.
You pick them, you play, you ask who would you give money to, who would you tell, who wouldn't you tell?
You worry about the press hounds, can't they just leave me and my family alone for once – everyone wants a piece of you after you won that lottery jackpot in your head.
It isn't real, of course, just a flight of fancy, yet somehow you feel better. And there's a strong reason why.
Lottoland's Science Bit
At Lottoland you're essentially betting on the results of your chosen lottery draw. But it's not like any other form of gambling.
You can have a flutter on the Galway Races and win an unexpected windfall, win at poker despite having a bad hand by bluffing it, or go to a roulette table and win big with a single spin – the result would be not just monetary gain, but also a rush of adrenaline followed by a release of endorphins.
It's an animal response – you've taken a risk and, lucky for you, it paid off.
With the lottery it's different. The amount you can win is far more, but the stakes are way lower, so there's no adrenaline rush. Plus you already know the odds are higher, so the animal risk mechanisms aren't engaged.
Instead what we get is a release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter released into our brains as a biochemical "reward." This so-called "happy hormone" is linked with satisfaction, sex, joy, euphoria and a plethora of other positive emotional states. It's also released by strenuous workouts, mastering new skills, completing a particularly tricky level on a video game and, as we now know as fact, playing the lottery.
Playing the lottery feels good – not just our opinion, but a scientific fact. It feels good because daydreaming feels good, because hope feels good, because taking a break from the day-to-day drudgery to paint a pleasant picture in your mind actively reduces stress.
Defy The Odds
Lottery odds are high. So high our brains can't actually comprehend them. We have no mechanism for doing so because there was never any evolutionary reason for it.
So we stop trying and instead focus on that one shot.
From an evolution standpoint our survival can hinge on that one shot, so we tend to block out the odds against us as just another huge packet of junk data. And it's the same with the lottery.
Because there's always that chance, however slight, that…
Looking for a steady return on your investment? Stocks and bonds are the way to go. But I don't bother because they're boring and they cost far more than €2.
Besides, who wants shares in a company when, for just a couple of quid, you can own a piece of a dream shared by millions!?
You don't need a broker to play the lottery. Just pick five numbers and two star numbers and you could be as rich as Ronaldo. (Today's EuroMillions jackpot's the same as his annual salary.)
As adults we know there's no fairy godmother, but the lottery acts as the next best thing.
It's one chance in millions. But then so are you. One chance in billions, actually.
Fact of the matter is, when you look at all the variables, it's a miracle you're here at all. But here you most certainly are. And you truly are one in a million. You are special. And you work hard, and make sacrifices, just like all of us and, as such, you deserve to win.
You deserve to wake up and realise that, finally, after all those years of playing the lottery and paying your dues, and out of all the other players, fate has chosen you this weekend to hit that massive EuroMillions jackpot.
€39 million – it's a difficult number to get your head around.
Not an unlimited amount of money, but an amount that promises unlimited possibilities. You may not be able to visualise exactly how many hundred pound notes that would be, but you can imagine all the things it could buy you, all the places you could go, things you can see, those places you always wanted to visit, those things you always dreamt of doing, not to mention all the good you could do, the differences to people's lives you could make.
Let yourself daydream, it's good for you and helps relieve stress. And if you're going to dream you might as well dream big, with EuroMillions.