What we would get from this undertaking is not worth the effort we would have to put into it. The saying alludes to a game of cards in which the stakes are smaller than the cost of burning a candle for light by which to play.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Other Idioms and Phrases with The game is not worth the candle
The returns from an activity or enterprise do not warrant the time, money or effort required. For example, The office he is running for is so unimportant that the game's not worth the candle. This expression, which began as a translation of a term used by the French essayist Michel de Montaigne in 1580, alludes to gambling by candlelight, which involved the expense of illumination. If the winnings were not sufficient, they did not warrant the expense. Used figuratively, it was a proverb within a century.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.