What is the Lottery?

Lottery is a game in which numbers are drawn at random and the players match them against those on their tickets, with higher number combinations offering greater prizes. Lotteries have a long history and a widespread appeal, with a major role in colonial-era America when Benjamin Franklin sponsored one to raise money for cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British. Today, lottery revenue is widely used to fund education and other public services.

The main message that state lotteries convey is that playing the lottery benefits the community. It is a civic duty to buy a ticket, they say. And even if you don’t win, you can feel good about yourself for doing your part. This message is misleading, because it obscures the regressive nature of state lotteries and the fact that they are largely a tax on low- and middle-income people.

Moreover, the lottery reinforces the false belief that wealth is a meritocratic good and that we are all destined to get rich someday. It also fosters covetousness, which the Bible forbids (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:10). People who play the lottery are lured by promises that they can solve all of their problems with a little luck.

The success of a lottery is dependent on its promotion and the ability to maintain an enduring popular interest. Initially, lottery revenues increase dramatically but then level off and sometimes decline. To maintain their popularity, state lotteries are constantly introducing new games.