The Dangers of Lottery

Lottery is a game of chance in which prizes, usually cash, are awarded to players who correctly select numbers. Its origin is uncertain, but it probably dates back to ancient times: a drawing for gifts was held at the Roman feast of Saturnalia, and Elizabeth I organised the first English state lottery to fund “the Strength of the Realm.”

In modern society, people pay for lottery tickets with the expectation that the entertainment value will outweigh the cost. The winnings are often taxed and may be spent on things that increase utility — such as buying a home or paying off credit card debt. But even when the odds of winning are low, a lottery can cause psychological damage and lead to addiction.

States need money to run their government, and they have a hard time relying on income, property, and sales taxes alone. Instead, many state governments subsidize their budgets by running lotteries. Supporters argue that, unlike mandatory taxes, citizens can choose whether to play or not, and that their decisions should be free of government interference.

One problem with this argument is that lottery revenue is not as transparent as a regular tax. Consumers are not aware that the proceeds from their ticket purchases are effectively being seized by the state. Moreover, the existence of a lottery may encourage people to think that money can solve all their problems — even though God forbids coveting what belongs to others (Exodus 20:17). Lotteries also lure people by promising that their lives would be better if they won. But the Bible teaches that this kind of hope is empty.