The Truth About Lottery


Lottery is a popular form of gambling in the United States, contributing billions to state coffers each year. While the regressive nature of lottery is obvious, many people play it because they believe that winning the jackpot will solve all their problems and give them a better life. However, the truth is that the odds of winning are very low. In fact, the bigger the jackpot, the lower the odds of winning. In order to maintain interest, lottery commissions started raising prize amounts while decreasing the odds of winning. This made the lottery seem less like a game and more like a real-life get-rich-quick scheme, and it also obscured how much money is being spent on tickets.

In early America, the popularity of the lottery was fueled by exigency: people were short on cash and desperate for infrastructure projects, and the lottery offered a tax-free alternative to more direct means of raising funds. Thomas Jefferson favored it, Alexander Hamilton understood its economics, and enslaved Denmark Vesey won a lottery ticket and used it to purchase his freedom.

The big message that lottery companies rely on is that it’s good to buy a ticket because it raises money for your state and “helps the children.” But this is often accompanied by other messages that are equally flawed, such as: “If you win, you can use the money to change your life,” or “The more tickets you buy, the better your chances of winning.” Lotteries are not only statistically futile; they encourage players to view money as their goal (which is why God’s commandments against covetousness are so important) and focus them on temporary riches rather than the enduring riches of hard work (Proverbs 10:4).