The Lottery

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

This post looks at a clip from a popular American late night TV show called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. John presents to you problems with the Lottery system in the US. As this is a late night show, be aware that inappropriate language is used in this video and it is not appropriate for children. This video is 14 minutes and 35 seconds long. For advanced learners your main challenges will be the speed of speech, vocabulary and pop culture references. Don’t be afraid to watch the video with subtitles! (Press “CC” on the bottom right of the video.)

I’ve split this video into two sections for you. First, start by looking up the vocabulary words I provide you for section one, then watch part one of the video. Try to answer the comprehension questions. If you are struggling, watch part one again! Then do the same for part two. At the end you will find the answers for the comprehension questions and some more discussion questions to get you thinking in English! Feel free to answer one of the discussion questions in the comment box below!

Remember, you don’t need to understand every word to understand the message of the video! 

Video link: *

PART ONE (beginning to 7:33 minutes)


  • To peek

  • To march

  • A massive (something)

  • To imply

  • A slogan 

  • To be akin to 

  • 12 Step program

  • An intervention 

Comprehension Questions

  1. What are lottery commercials like?

  2. Why do states spend half a billion dollar on making lottery commercials?

  3. How do lotteries convince people to play?

  4. What are the chances of winning the lottery?

  5. Why do many lottery winners hide their identity?

  6. Are states aware that lotteries can be addictive?

PART TWO (7:33 minutes - end)


  • Video slot, video poker

  • Lucrative

  • Ubiquity 

  • Guise 

  • Report card

  • To double down 

Comprehension Questions

  1. On average, how much money do lottery players lose a year? How much money do video slot players lose a year?

  2. Who owns the slot machines (in Oregon)? 

  3. What effects do these machines have on addicts?

  4. What two things does the “crossed fingers” stand for?

  5.  Does the money the government makes off of the lottery really go to education and other good causes?


  1. Have you ever played the lottery? How often?

  2. Have you ever won the lottery?

  3. If you won the lottery, what would you do with your winnings?

  4. Do you think the lottery is a good thing or a bad thing? 

  5. Do you think video slots and the lottery are the same?

  6. Is it a good idea to put lotteries on our smartphones? 


Part One 

  1. They are incredibly seductive. They include wild and outrageous purchases. 

  2. States can make a lot of money on lotteries (68 billions $).

  3. Make people think they are charitable foundations. (For example, the money goes to schools.) They sell people hope.

  4. The chances of winning the lottery are 1 in 176 million. The same chance as getting struck by lightning and being eaten by a shark at the same time! 

  5. They protect their identities to avoid problems because it can be a curse to have that much money. 

  6. Yes, states are aware that lotteries can be addictive. They have sections on their websites that reference responsible gambling. (Although the link doesn’t work!)

Part Two 

  1. Lottery players lost an average of 106$ a year, Video slot players lost an average of 2564$ a year. 

  2. They are run by the state.

  3. They gamble away the money they need to survive. 

  4. It means “Good luck” and can also mean lying. 

  5. No. In 21 of 24 states, lottery money doesn’t make it to the schools. 

* Disclaimer: This video content is linked and intended for educational purposes only. The views or opinions of the content are that of the original creator and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Habit Language Lab.

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