The History of Lottery


Lottery is a popular form of gambling that awards prizes to paying participants who select a group of numbers or have machines randomly split them up. Normally, a certain percentage of the pool is set aside for organizing and promoting the lottery, while the remainder goes as prizes. Those profits can vary greatly depending on the size of the prize and other factors. For example, in the NBA draft lottery, 14 teams get to select one college player. Depending on the amount of money a team receives, the lottery creates excitement and hope for many people who haven’t been able to pay for the luxury of a college education.

The history of lottery has a long and complex past, but Cohen focuses chiefly on its modern incarnation, beginning in the nineteen-sixties. During this period, growing awareness about the huge amounts of money to be made in the gambling business collided with a crisis in state funding. As populations swelled and inflation soared, balancing state budgets became increasingly difficult without raising taxes or cutting services-both of which were wildly unpopular with voters.

In this environment, the lottery became an increasingly popular alternative to higher taxes. Advocates of the lottery argued that since people were going to gamble anyway, it made sense to let the state keep some of the profits. Though this argument had its limits (by its logic, governments should also sell heroin), it gave moral cover to people who approved of the lottery for other reasons. Many white voters, for instance, supported legalization because they feared that state-run gambling would attract black players who would foot the bill for services that they didn’t want to pay for, such as better schools in urban areas.

Despite these moral concerns, the lottery proved to be a highly profitable enterprise. By the early nineteen-eighties, it had become so widespread that it was impossible for states to resist. As a result, thirteen states started their first modern lotteries, with the rest following suit in the early and mid-1990s.

It is important to remember that the odds of winning the lottery are always terrible, no matter how big the jackpot is. The best way to determine if the odds of winning are good is by charting the “random” outside numbers that repeat, and then examining those that appear only once-the ones that are called “singletons.” A singleton indicates that the ticket is probably a winner.

In the end, the narrator of this short story appears to be foreshadowing what is to come. His mention of Mr. Summers and his associate, Mr. Graves, is a nod to the iniquity of the lottery system, as it is portrayed in this story. The lottery is a system that allows privileged people to win the highest rewards while ordinary citizens struggle and sometimes fall victim to its corruptions. It is a travesty and an injustice that is inherently unfair, and the story of this short story serves to underscore its negative effects on society.