The History of Lottery
Lottery is a gambling game in which numbered tickets are sold for the chance to win a prize, typically money. The practice is popular and raises billions of dollars each year. People have a variety of motivations for playing, including a desire to become rich, improve their lives through buying things they cannot afford, or simply to escape from the daily grind of work and care for their families. The drawback to lottery is that the odds are very low, but many people still play, even when they know their chances of winning are slim to none. This has produced a number of issues, including concerns that the games are exploiting the poor, encouraging problem gambling, and contributing to obesity and mental health problems.
Traditionally, state lotteries are run as monopolies with government officials regulating their operations. The initial steps in establishing a lottery follow a familiar pattern: the government passes a law creating the monopoly; establishes a public corporation to manage the operation (as opposed to licensing a private company in return for a share of profits); begins operations with a modest number of relatively simple games; and, under pressure to increase revenues, progressively expands its offerings. The problem with this strategy is that it leaves government at any level in an awkward position, profiting from an activity whose potential negative effects it can control only intermittently and in piecemeal fashion.
The casting of lots to determine fates and distribute wealth has a long record in human history, and the first known lotteries to offer prizes were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century for such purposes as town repairs and helping the poor. Today, the majority of state lotteries use traditional forms of lottery games to raise money and are marketed as a “painless form of taxation.”
A key factor in winning and maintaining broad public support for the lottery is that proceeds are viewed as benefiting some specific public good, such as education. This is especially effective when a state faces economic stress and is under pressure to increase taxes or cut public programs. However, studies have shown that the popularity of a lottery is not related to a state’s objective fiscal situation.
While lottery revenues have increased rapidly in the early years of a new game, they eventually begin to plateau. This has prompted the introduction of new games, such as keno and video poker, in an effort to maintain or increase revenues. The expansion of the lottery has also triggered a host of other problems, including concerns that it is targeting poorer neighborhoods and exacerbates existing alleged negative impacts, such as those on the environment, obesity, and problem gambling.
While it is tempting to buy a ticket and hope for the best, Christians should avoid lottery games as a way to get rich quickly or to escape from the daily grind of life. Instead, we should work hard to earn our money honestly and spend it wisely, as the Bible instructs: “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 24:24). If God has blessed us with abundant income, then we should put some of it aside for emergencies or to pay off credit card debt.