The History of the Lottery


In the United States, state governments hold lotteries, which sell tickets and use the proceeds to fund government programs. The games are monopolies; no other private lotteries may compete with them, and tickets can be purchased by anyone who is physically present in the state. Lotteries are a form of gambling, but unlike most other forms of gambling they are generally not considered to be addictive. A lottery is a way to win a prize, such as cash or goods, through a random drawing. The name “lottery” comes from the ancient practice of drawing lots to determine ownership or other rights.

There are two main messages that lottery commissions try to communicate. One is that the experience of buying a ticket is fun. The other is that winning the lottery is a great way to get rich quickly. Both of these messages are aimed at young people, as they are the ones most likely to be persuaded by billboards on highways advertising large jackpots.

The story of the lottery in the short story, The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson, exemplifies this idea. It shows that a lottery can have terrible consequences for some people, and that people should be aware of the possible risks involved in participating in it. The story also highlights the fact that people are willing to ignore their own ethical issues in order to participate in something they believe will benefit them.

Another important point from the story is that the lottery is a bad idea because it encourages irrational behavior. For example, in the story, some of the villagers in the village blindly follow the lottery without understanding its origins or the reasons for the tradition. This blind following is a major theme in the story and illustrates the idea that people are often willing to ignore their own ethics in order to participate in an activity they think will benefit them.

In the modern world, lottery sales began to boom in the nineteen-sixties, as state budgets ran into trouble due to population growth, inflation, and the cost of wars. With federal money drying up, states had to balance their budgets by either raising taxes or cutting services—both of which were unpopular with voters. Lotteries seemed like a good way to raise funds for necessary government services without incurring the political backlash associated with raising taxes.

By the early nineteen-eighties, thirteen states had adopted lotteries. New Hampshire, which was famously tax averse, launched the first modern state lottery in 1964. As the decade wore on, more and more states looked to the lottery as a solution to their fiscal problems. This trend continued until the late eighties, when it stalled. By then, the lottery was well established in the Northeast and in the Rust Belt. It is in these states that the story really gets going, because it was here that citizens saw lotteries not as a small drop in the bucket of state government but as a way to get rid of taxes altogether.