Are the Benefits of the Lottery Worth the Costs of Gambling Addiction?


People spend upwards of $100 billion on lottery tickets each year, and the states reap significant financial benefits. But are these benefits worth the societal costs of gambling addiction? This article explores the question.

Historically, governments have used lotteries to collect “voluntary taxes” and to fund projects such as schools. For example, the Continental Congress established a lottery in 1776 to raise money for the American Revolution, and public lotteries were common during the 18th century. Privately organized lotteries also existed. For instance, the Boston Mercantile Journal reported in 1832 that one held by a local company raised money to build six American colleges: Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, King’s College (now Columbia), William and Mary, and Union.

Most lottery players use a system of selecting numbers that are important to them. Some of these systems involve picking birthdays and anniversaries, while others are more sophisticated and focus on playing hot numbers. But no matter what system a player uses, they must understand that the lottery is a game of chance and that they cannot predict the results.

People may be drawn to the lottery because it gives them a way to covet the things that money can buy. But the Bible forbids coveting (Exodus 20:17). Instead, if people want to enjoy the pleasures of life, they should work hard and save their money. This is a much better approach than buying lottery tickets to make ends meet. And for those who still want to buy a ticket, it’s best to choose numbers that are unlikely to win.