The History of the Lottery

The lottery is a popular form of gambling that draws millions of people and contributes billions to government revenues. Its low risk-to-reward ratio is often appealing, but lottery players as a group lose a great deal in terms of money that they could be saving for retirement or their children’s college tuition. Moreover, state lotteries are not transparent to consumers and they have been accused of promoting addictive gambling behavior, serving as a major regressive tax on poorer communities, and contributing to societal dysfunction.

While the casting of lots to make decisions and determine fates has a long history (including multiple instances in the Bible), public lotteries that distribute prize money have much more recent origins. The first recorded public lotteries to sell tickets and award prizes were held in the 15th century, with town records of lotteries to raise funds for wall repairs and help the poor found in Ghent, Utrecht, Bruges, and other cities.

Although state governments use lotteries to increase revenues, they do not treat them like a tax in terms of how they promote and regulate the games. The result is that state governments run a teetering course between their desire to maximize profits and their duty to protect the public welfare. This dilemma has been highlighted by the fact that lottery revenues expand dramatically after they are introduced, then level off or even begin to decline. To maintain or increase revenues, states have been constantly introducing new games, including instant games such as scratch-off tickets.

Many of these new games have been targeted at lower-income communities to attract new players and bolster revenues. However, studies have shown that the majority of state lottery players and revenues come from middle-income neighborhoods. The poorer sections of the country participate at a far smaller rate, and they do not seem to be drawn to the new instant games.

The short story Shirley Jackson wrote about her childhood in Vermont is a critique of the way that democracy can be corrupted by the desires of the majority. She uses the example of the lottery to point out that it is important for people to be able to stand up against authority if they believe that the status quo is not right.

Throughout the story, Shirley Jackson demonstrates how she can make the reader feel for her characters by using characterization methods. Characterization is the process of revealing what makes someone different or similar to another person in a way that allows the reader to understand them better. This is accomplished by using a variety of techniques including setting, dialogue, and actions.