In a no-lose lottery, lots of people put money in a bank; all of them will get their money back whenever they want. Additionally, the bank takes the proceeds from investing their money and occasionally gives a random person a large bonus sum.

My impression is that those who prohibit gambling in halacha based on problems of asmachta (conditional or implausible obligations) would have no problem with this, you put $100 in the bank and you'll certainly get at least $100 out!

There are those who read the Mishna in Shabbos as a blanket prohibition on all forms of gambling however; at the extreme, R' Ovadya Yosef prohibits buying lottery tickets.

Would those poskim view the no-lose lottery as included in this prohibition?

  • 2
    An aspect to consider is that there's actually no such thing as a free lunch. It may not feel like the depositors are constantly laying out money for lottery tickets, but they are, since the tickets are paid for out of funds that they'd otherwise receive in interest. So, those who realize that they're bearing this opportunity cost may yet feel cheated if they never get a big win in return, and thus potentially have a cause of action under the asmachta rules. On the other hand, perhaps the psychological assumption of asmachta doesn't apply to people who understand opportunity cost like that.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 6, 2010 at 15:29
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    How does this compare to a traditional bank that occasionally gives prizes to its depositors? Or the Discover Card daily sweepstakes (discovercard.com/giveaway)?
    – Yosef
    Dec 6, 2010 at 15:40

1 Answer 1


The way I have heard the question phrased is as such: If you know for certain that you are not going to win, are you going to engage in this activity anyways?

Would you put in your $100 if you know that all you will get back is $100?

Or to ask it a bit more objectively, would you suggest to your friend that they put in $100 for their own benefit, if you know they will just get the $100 back? It seems to me, like in this case, the answer would be that no, you would not put in the $100. It's not fun and you don't inherently gain anything (like you do with a typical money market account or credit card reward programs)

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