The Truth About the Lottery


Lottery (ltr) is a gambling game or method of raising money for a public charitable purpose in which tickets are sold and a drawing is held to distribute prizes. Throughout history, the casting of lots to determine fates and property has been common, with many examples in the Bible and in Roman emperors’ giveaways of land and slaves during Saturnalian feasts and entertainments. State government lotteries have a long tradition, starting with the Continental Congress’ effort to raise funds for the American Revolution in 1776, followed by state-run games that were hailed as painless forms of taxation.

States typically start with a small number of relatively simple games and, under constant pressure for additional revenues, gradually expand the lottery with new types of games. As they grow in size and complexity, lottery advertising is often accused of deceptive practices, including presenting misleading odds of winning; dramatically inflating the value of the money won (since jackpots are typically paid in equal annual installments over 20 years, inflation erodes their current value); using high-profile celebrities to promote the game; and claiming that everyone wins.

But while some people do win, the vast majority of people who play the lottery do not become richer. Even when they do, the amount they can actually keep after paying federal taxes and state and local ones is minuscule, and those who spend large amounts of their incomes on tickets usually go broke within a few years.