Lottery is a form of gambling in which a person pays for a ticket, chooses numbers or symbols and then hopes to win a prize by matching those chosen. It is a popular pastime in many states and contributes billions to state governments each year. But is it right for the government to profit from a gambling activity? What is the effect on poor people, problem gamblers and the rest of the population?
The main reason that lottery is a popular source of revenue for states is that it is seen as a “painless” tax—a way to raise money without raising taxes or cutting other public programs. The lottery is especially popular during economic stress, when state governments are most likely to need the extra revenue. But studies show that the popularity of the lottery is not tied to a state’s actual fiscal health.
Lotteries are promoted by offering huge jackpots, which draw in players. But it turns out that super-sized jackpots are also a marketing gimmick: The winner will not get the full amount of the winnings, but a share that is proportional to the number of tickets purchased. This gimmick is necessary to keep the jackpot large enough to attract attention, but it means that the chance of winning the big prize gets smaller with each new drawing.
Moreover, playing the lottery distracts people from realizing the importance of earning their own income through hard work. God wants us to work for wealth, not to expect it as a gift from the government or from a lucky drawing. “Lazy hands make for poverty,” as Proverbs tells us.