Lottery Basics


Despite the biblical warning against coveting and its consequences (Exodus 20:17), money and the things it can buy have great appeal. Hence the proliferation of lottery games throughout the world, which generate billions of dollars each year. Many people play for fun, while others believe the lottery is their answer to life’s problems. The latter are deceived into believing that winning the jackpot will solve all their problems, even though God forbids such hopefulness in his Word (Ecclesiastes 5:10-15).

Lottery entails three basic components: a pool of prizes and other revenues; a mechanism to record purchases and gather stakes; and a system to distribute prize money. In addition, there are costs involved in organizing and promoting the lottery. These costs usually take a percentage of the total pool. The remainder is available for the prize winners.

In the modern era, state lotteries have gained broad public acceptance, particularly when their profits are earmarked for a specific public good, such as education. Lotteries also gain and retain popularity during economic stress, when the public might fear tax increases or cuts in other state programs.

Critics charge that many lottery advertisements are misleading, commonly presenting misleading odds of winning the jackpot, inflating the value of money won (lottery prize money is generally paid in equal annual installments over several years, with inflation and taxes dramatically eroding its current value), and so forth. In addition, the data suggests that lotteries are regressive in that they draw large numbers of players from middle-income neighborhoods and fewer from low-income areas.