The Lottery and Its Addiction


The lottery is the most popular form of gambling in the world. It is a game in which you can win money or goods simply by buying a ticket, though the odds of winning are extremely low. While most people play for fun, some use it as a tool for financial security or as a way to relieve boredom. Others use it to avoid the responsibilities of life, or because they believe that luck can bring them prosperity. The fact is, most people will never win a jackpot, but there’s no denying that lotteries are addictive.

Lotteries have been around for centuries, and are used to award a variety of prizes and benefits, including jobs, housing, automobiles, vacations, sports teams, college educations, and even slaves. They are a great way to distribute wealth among a population and are used by governments all over the world. They also have a long history in the United States, with the first state-run lottery established in 1859. The modern incarnation of the lottery began in the nineteen-sixties, when growing awareness of all the money to be made in the gambling business collided with a crisis in state funding. Faced with growing costs for pensions and social welfare, politicians in many states were unable to balance their budgets without raising taxes or cutting services-both of which were highly unpopular with voters.

In order to keep the money coming in, they turned to the lottery. Though a lottery has always been an addictive pursuit, the modern version of it was crafted with the same careful consideration that goes into the design of addictive video games or cigarette advertisements. Lotteries are run by government agencies, but they don’t shy away from availing themselves of the psychology of addiction. They use advertising campaigns and math that are designed to keep people playing. The lottery has become a form of mass addiction, one that reaches far into the working class.

In the short story The Lottery, Shirley Jackson lays bare the evils of human nature through the simple act of a drawing. In the village in which the story takes place, the villagers gather in a room and draw slips of paper with numbers on them, allowing each family to have one ticket. The narrator and the other characters in the story then manhandle each other with little or no remorse, “smiling knowingly at their sins, and talking of them as they went.”

The lottery was introduced to colonial America by British immigrants, who were accustomed to using it to raise funds for both private and public projects. During the war with France, lotteries were often held to raise money for fortifications and local militias. In the eighteenth century, it became common for a lottery to be held in conjunction with a church or other community event. It also was used to fund construction of roads, libraries, churches, and schools. In the nineteenth century, it was often used to fund public works, such as canals and bridges.