July 20, 2024

Lottery is a game in which numbers are drawn at random to determine the winner of a prize, such as a cash jackpot or goods. It has been around for centuries and has been used to award slaves in ancient Rome and to distribute property in the Bible (Numbers 26:55–57). Modern state lotteries are a popular source of tax revenue. In the United States, lottery revenues are usually earmarked for a specific public purpose, such as education. Lotteries typically enjoy broad public approval. They are particularly popular in times of economic stress, when voters may fear tax increases or cuts in government spending. However, research shows that the popularity of a lottery does not relate to the actual fiscal health of a state.

People who play the lottery often hope to solve their problems with money. This is a form of covetousness, which God forbids: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, his wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17; see also Ecclesiastes 5:10). Lottery is also a form of gambling, which the Bible forbids (Exodus 20:20).

Before 1970, state lotteries were little more than traditional raffles, with participants buying tickets for a drawing that would occur weeks or months in the future. But innovations in the 1970s changed the way that people played and organized lotteries. The most significant innovation was the introduction of scratch-off games, which offered much smaller prizes, but had the advantage of providing a rapid and predictable outcome: a win or loss.