Study on the Non-Financial Motives for Money Games

The Lotto Game and the Secret Hope for a Life Change

Nobody makes more millionaires. This slogan anticipates the answer to the question of why people participate in lottery drawings: Because I want to win money! Matter of fact, the probability of winning an amount that covers the expenses of the lottery game is vanishingly small. Nevertheless, lottery players expect financial benefits from their participation. A large part of the participants who were asked in our study about non-financial motives for playing the lottery told us that they consider the expenses for their lottery game as a kind of investment. Accordingly, they exhibit little or no loss aversion. Moreover, unlike scratch tickets or slot machines, lottery play does not involve a prompt reinforcement of behavior in the form of a direct cash payout of the winnings. Thus, the question arises why gamblers nevertheless submit a lottery ticket again.

«... a certain hope that maybe somehow something life-changing could happen.»

What motivates you to buy a lottery ticket? Is playing the lottery a kind of ritual for you? Is this influenced by social contacts? Or is it the thrill? We asked 19 people who participate in Swiss Lotto or EuroMillions draws to answer these questions. The results of the interviews astonished us. Neither social contacts nor boredom, thrills or rituals were given as reasons for participating in number lotteries.

On the other hand, the study participants told us about their daydreams. We heard descriptions of what life would be like after winning. Secretly, therefore, participation in lotteries is associated with the desire and need for a change in life. The most frequent answers to the question of how a potential win would be invested can be found visualized in the word cloud shown below.

Thoughts wander when playing the lottery

Without the lottery win, the necessary incentive to make significant and sometimes risky life changes - such as changing jobs or taking the leap into self-employment - seems to be lacking. In doing so, daydreams and "hopeful thoughts" serve a concrete purpose. By allowing thoughts to wander, one distances oneself from the reality of the world and returns from the mental break with a positive mood.

According to our study, the main benefit of playing the lottery is the provocation of hopeful thoughts. A non-win is better tolerated thanks to daydreams and is not perceived as a loss, and the knowledge that 27 cents per Swiss franc played go to charitable causes seems to justify the expense of playing the lottery as a kind of investment.

Wortwolke mit den Begriffen Reisen, Immobilien, Familie unterstützen, Frühpensionierung, Rücklage/Sparen, Anlegen/Investieren, Schulden abbezahlen, Selbstständigkeit, Guter Zweck, grössere Wohnung, Flugzeug, Spassnacht, Auto, Pferde, Motorrad
Own figure based on the study's results