What is a Lottery?


Lottery is a form of gambling in which tickets are sold for a chance to win a prize, often money. A portion of the ticket price goes to taxes and promotional costs, while the winner gets the remainder. Some governments regulate state lotteries; others don’t. Most lotteries are run by private companies or nonprofit organizations. Some people play the lottery a few times a week or more (“frequent players”), while others are infrequent or occasional players. According to the Pew Research Center, high school-educated men in the middle of the economic spectrum are the most frequent players.

While the casting of lots to make decisions and determine fates has a long record in history (including several examples in the Bible), public lotteries to distribute prizes of cash or goods are much more recent. The first recorded lotteries were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century to raise funds for town repairs and help the poor. Benjamin Franklin sponsored a lottery to finance the construction of cannons for the American Revolution, and lotteries became common in the colonial United States despite strong Protestant proscriptions against gambling.

Some argue that lotteries have a positive impact on society by raising millions for education and other government services. However, it’s important to remember that lotteries also divert billions of dollars from savings by ordinary citizens—money that could have been used for retirement or college tuition. In addition, people who play the lottery tend to be more apt to spend beyond their means and rely on short-term riches. God wants us to earn our wealth honestly, through diligent work, as he says, “Lazy hands make for poverty; but those who work hard will gain wealth” (Proverbs 10:4).