Lottery – Is It Appropriate For Government to Promote Gambling?


Lottery is a form of gambling in which players try to win cash or prizes by selecting numbers in a draw. It is commonly organized so that a percentage of the proceeds go to good causes. Its popularity has created two sets of issues: (1) is it appropriate for government to promote gambling and (2) are there negative effects on the poor, compulsive gamblers, etc?

Many of the first government projects in colonial America, including paving streets, constructing wharves and churches, were financed by lottery tickets. The American Revolution was also partially financed by lotteries, as was the creation of Harvard and Yale. The casting of lots for making decisions has a long history in human culture, as documented by several instances in the Bible. The earliest public lotteries in which prize money was distributed were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century to raise funds for town fortifications and to help the poor.

Experts advise that you should choose random numbers rather than selecting numbers based on significant dates or patterns. If you do so, there is a greater chance that others will choose the same numbers and you may have to split the prize with them. Harvard statistics professor Mark Glickman adds that you should avoid numbers ending with the same digit, since these tend to appear more frequently.

Lottery organizers attempt to make the process as fair as possible by avoiding biases in ticket sales, drawing procedures and awarding of prizes. They do this by separating the tickets sold to the public into fractions, such as tenths, each of which costs slightly more than its share of the total price of an entire ticket. They then pool the tickets sold to the public into a single pool, which is then randomly awarded positions in the drawing.