The History of the Lottery


The lottery is a popular form of gambling in which people have the chance to win large sums of money. The lottery is legalized and regulated by government agencies. Many states operate state lotteries and the games offered vary widely. The lottery industry is an enormous one and contributes billions of dollars to state budgets each year. Although the lottery is often viewed as a public service, critics argue that it contributes to problems such as addiction and poverty. While most people play for fun, others use it to improve their financial situation.

The first state lotteries were introduced in the early modern period, a time when states sought new revenue sources as their traditional income taxes dwindled. Advocates of the lottery argued that since people were going to gamble anyway, it was morally acceptable for the state to collect tax revenues from this activity. This line of reasoning was eventually adopted by a number of countries and states, including the United States.

Although the story is fictional, the setting and events are remarkably consistent with what has actually happened to state lotteries over time. State lotteries are typically established by legislation; they begin with a small number of relatively simple games; and then, due to the pressure for additional revenue, progressively expand their operations and game offerings.

In this way, the lottery becomes a classic example of a piecemeal public policy. Decisions are made in the context of particular concerns – such as a perceived need for gambling revenues or the existence of compulsive gamblers – and, in most cases, the overall public welfare is given little consideration.

During the lottery’s inception, few state officials had a comprehensive “gambling policy.” In fact, many of them were not aware of the existence of such a policy until after the lottery was implemented. Even then, there is no guarantee that such a policy would have prevented the lottery from becoming what it is today.

It is important to understand the underlying social issues in this short story. First, it is important to note that Shirley Jackson focuses on how human beings are evil by nature. This is evident in the way that the villagers treat each other throughout the entire story. The way they greet each other and how they gossip is indicative of their evil nature. Moreover, the fact that they continue to carry out the lottery shows that they are not willing to change their ways despite their obvious mistreatment of each other.

Lastly, the story also illustrates how tradition and beliefs can affect human beings. The villagers are adamant about continuing the lottery despite the fact that they know it is not good for them. This shows how deeply rooted tradition and beliefs can be and how they can blind individuals to the negative effects that are caused by such traditions. The lottery also demonstrates how people tend to condone bad behaviors as long as they are within the confines of their culture.