Lottery is a popular form of gambling in the United States, with people spending upwards of $100 billion on tickets every year. It’s promoted as a way to raise revenue for state programs, and it certainly does bring in some dollars for those purposes. But just how meaningful those funds are in broader state budgets and whether they’re worth the trade-offs to people who lose money should be scrutinized.

Lotteries are government-sponsored games where participants have a chance to win a prize based on the random selection of numbers or symbols. They’re also a common way for private companies to award property or other rights through a process of random selection. The practice has been around for a long time; there’s even a biblical reference to it in Ecclesiastes 5:10.

The big problem with lottery is that the odds of winning are extremely low. Yet many people play it anyway, figuring that their lives will be much better if they could just hit the jackpot. They’ve probably heard all the “quote unquote” systems about picking lucky numbers and lucky stores and times of day to buy tickets. They might even believe that they’re using a “system” that isn’t really a system at all.

The truth is, a lottery habit can eat into your ability to save for retirement or pay off debt. And if you’re a habitual player, the opportunity cost can add up to a small fortune over the course of a working lifetime.