Moral Arguments Against the Lottery

The lottery is a game of chance in which participants purchase tickets and hope to win a prize based on the proportion of numbers they match to those drawn. Prizes may be cash or goods. Lotteries are most common in states that have legalized gambling.

The word is derived from the Dutch noun lot, meaning “fate.” Early European lotteries were organized for charitable purposes or as entertainment at dinner parties. In the 17th century, however, they became a major source of state revenue and were hailed as a painless form of taxation. The oldest continuing lottery is the Staatsloterij in the Netherlands, which began operating in 1726.

One popular moral argument against the lottery is that it teaches people to covet money and things that money can buy. This is a problem because the Bible forbids coveting (Exodus 20:17 and 1 Timothy 6:10). The lottery also promotes the lie that we can solve all our problems if we only get enough money. But the truth is that money cannot solve all our problems, and winning the lottery is no guarantee that we will be happy.

Other moral arguments against lotteries focus on the idea that they are a form of regressive taxation, hurting those who can least afford it. But critics point out that the same is true of almost all forms of government taxation, including income taxes and sales taxes. The fact is, governments need revenue to pay for services, but they should not raise taxes by promoting gambling and the belief that we can buy happiness with money.