The Lottery – A Story About Tradition and Government-Sponsored Gambling

Many states have a lottery, where members of the public pay money to participate in a draw for prizes. Most lotteries involve a small number of numbers or symbols printed on paper tickets, and winners are determined by drawing a random selection of them. Prizes may be money or goods. Lotteries can be controversial, especially when the winners are disproportionately lower-income people and minorities. Some governments outlaw lotteries, while others endorse them to the extent of establishing a state-run lottery or licensing private firms to run it for them.

The narrator of the story describes children as being the first to assemble for this lottery. The use of “of course” in this passage reflects the townspeople’s unwavering adherence to tradition, even when the purpose behind that tradition has long been lost or is purposeless. This point illustrates how powerful and insidious tradition can be, and it is an important theme throughout the story.

The lottery is an example of a government-sponsored gambling enterprise, and it’s one that has developed very broad general public support in the states where it operates. This popularity has not deterred many critics, who point to its unequal impact and alleged problems with gambling addiction and poverty. Despite these concerns, the lottery continues to be profitable for state governments. Its revenues typically increase dramatically following their introduction, and then they plateau and begin to decline, prompting new games to be introduced in an effort to stimulate continued growth.