The History of the Lottery


The lottery is a game of chance that awards prizes, usually money or goods, to the winners. In modern times, the majority of lotteries are state-organized and public. These are typically funded by a combination of ticket sales and “hidden” taxes, which are collected on the sale of tickets and are used to pay for other government projects. Privately organized lotteries are also popular and can raise large sums of money, often involving a single large prize or several smaller ones. Lotteries have a long history. At the outset of the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress held a lottery to raise funds, and such lotteries became common in England and America in the eighteenth century. They were seen as a way to obtain “voluntary taxes,” and helped finance the founding of Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, King’s College (now Columbia), and William and Mary.

The story of the village lottery demonstrates a number of themes, including human evil and hypocrisy. Jackson uses the events of the lottery to illustrate that humans are deceitful by nature. Jackson also shows that a lottery is inherently biased and unfair. In addition, the story reveals that people have a tendency to place unrealistic expectations on events.

Many people consider the lottery to be a form of gambling, but it is not. While the lottery may have an adverse effect on some people, it is not as damaging as sin taxes such as those on alcohol or tobacco. Furthermore, the lottery is a relatively small source of state revenues. As a result, state legislatures have little incentive to abolish it.