What is a Lottery?

A lottery is a system for distributing money or prizes among a group of people, by chance. Its origin is uncertain; it may be a corruption of Old French loterie “drawing of lots,” or a calque of Middle Dutch loten “fate” or “luck.”

Financial lotteries, where participants pay to purchase chances to win prizes that are either cash or goods, are the most common type. These are generally run by state governments and offer a prize pool that is based on the number of tickets sold, after expenses (profits for the promoter, costs of promotion, etc.) and taxes or other revenues are deducted.

There are two popular moral arguments against lotteries. The first is that lotteries are a form of “voluntary taxation,” which is unfair because it puts a higher burden on the poorer classes than richer ones, as compared to a flat sales or property tax. The second is that lotteries are a way for the government to siphon off money from illegal gambling, which could be better spent on more valuable public services.

It is also worth noting that the bulk of lottery players are in the 21st through 60th percentile of income distribution. These are people who have a few dollars in their pockets for discretionary spending, but they do not have the resources to live the American Dream or invest in their own futures. They are not the type of population that should be targeted for “fate”-based hope.

Posted in: Gambling