The Dangers of Playing the Lottery


Lottery is a game of chance in which the prize money is based on the number of tickets sold. The prize can be cash or goods. The game has its origins in ancient times. Moses was instructed to count the people of Israel and divide the land by lottery, and Roman emperors used it to distribute slaves and property. By the early 1800s, public lotteries had become popular in the United States. They had become a substitute for higher taxes, and they helped finance the construction of many American colleges.

The story of the lottery in Shirley Jackson’s short story reveals how human beings can misuse others, presumably in accordance with cultural beliefs and customs. It also shows how human beings condone these abuses without questioning their negative impacts on general human welfare.

Purchasing lottery tickets is an unwise investment for people who are struggling to make ends meet. Instead of buying a ticket, people would be better off saving for a rainy day or paying down credit card debt. Americans spend billions each year on lottery tickets. Those funds could be put toward a mortgage, retirement savings, or a college education for their children. Those who do win the jackpot often find themselves bankrupt in a matter of years.

In addition to the fact that people who play the lottery are gambling away their money, this form of gambling is a violation of God’s commandments. Those who play the lottery are coveting the things that other people have, and this is an offense against the sixth commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, his wife, his servant, his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

People buy lottery tickets because they believe that they have a small chance of winning big. But this is a dangerous illusion. The odds of winning are very low, so people should purchase the tickets for entertainment purposes only. In addition, the prizes of some lotteries are in the form of a lump sum, which must be spent right away. People who play the lottery are forgoing the opportunity to save for retirement, college tuition, or other important goals.

A prize in the form of cash is the most common, but some lotteries offer goods as well. The prize fund may be fixed, or it can be a percentage of the total receipts. In the latter case, a risk to the organizer exists, because it is possible that the prize money will not be sufficient to pay out all the winners.

Some recent lotteries have allowed purchasers to select the numbers, which increases the probability of winning. Although this format increases revenue, it is more complicated to administer than other types of lotteries. It is also not as fair, because a single set of numbers is no more luckier than any other. The best way to determine if a lottery is unbiased is to check the distribution of the awards. The more evenly distributed the awards are, the more likely it is that the lottery is unbiased.