The Ugly Underbelly of Lottery

Lottery is a game in which people purchase tickets and win prizes if their numbers match those randomly drawn. A large jackpot drives lottery sales, and the resulting publicity earns the games free advertising on news websites and television. But there’s an ugly underbelly to this game: It can be used to covet money and the things that money can buy, which is forbidden by God (Exodus 20:17, 1 Timothy 6:10).

To keep ticket sales robust, states must pay out a respectable percentage of revenue in prize money. This reduces the amount that’s available for state revenue and use on things like education, which is the ostensible reason for having a lottery in the first place. Moreover, it can be difficult for consumers to see that there’s an implicit tax rate on their purchases, even though the amounts involved are often quite large.

One way to reduce the size of the jackpot is to make it harder to win the top prize. This drives ticket sales, but also increases the likelihood that the jackpot will be carried over to the next drawing, which generates buzz and free publicity for the game. It’s a trick that’s been employed by other states, which have seen their jackpots grow to impressively newsworthy levels more frequently than in the past. In addition, many states pay large fees to private companies for their advertising campaigns in order to boost ticket sales. This has led to a kind of gaming that’s not only unfair, but also unwise and irresponsible.