The Ugly Underbelly of Lottery


A lottery is a type of competition in which people choose numbers that are drawn at random to determine winners. The prizes may be anything from cash to goods, services or even real estate. A common example is a drawing for subsidized housing units or kindergarten placements. The chances of winning are extremely low, but people feel compelled to play because they believe that someone must win. This mentality is the ugly underbelly of lottery, and it can have devastating effects on individuals’ lives.

Since New Hampshire began the modern era of state lotteries in 1964, almost every other state has adopted one. Each lottery has its own arguments for and against adoption, but the basic structure of the game is generally consistent: a state legislates a monopoly; establishes an independent state agency or public corporation to run it; and begins operations with a small number of relatively simple games, then progressively adds more as demand increases.

While the odds of winning a lottery are staggeringly low, they don’t deter millions of Americans from playing. They purchase a ticket or two each week, hoping that they will become rich overnight and escape the misery of everyday life. This hope, of course, is based on the lie that money can solve all problems—and it also violates one of God’s commandments against coveting (Exodus 20:17).

State lotteries are big business, and their marketing campaigns aim to maximize revenues. This often puts the interests of the poor and problem gamblers at cross-purposes with the larger public interest.