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What is the Lottery?

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The lottery is a type of gambling that offers prizes to a number of people in a random drawing. The lottery was first used during the Roman Empire as a way to raise money for public works, but it later gained popularity in other countries as an alternative to paying taxes. Today, more than 80 percent of states offer a lottery. While some state governments are concerned about the addictive nature of the game, others are eager to reap the benefits of an inexpensive source of revenue.

The word lottery comes from the Latin lotere, meaning “to draw lots.” It is generally thought to be derived from the Middle Dutch word loterij, but it could also be related to the French word loterie, which came from the Latin locus, meaning spot or location. Lotteries have a long history in Europe and the United States, with early examples including an attempt to raise funds for the Continental Congress during the American Revolution and a private lottery that George Washington ran to finance the construction of a road across Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Most lottery players do not buy tickets with the expectation of winning. Most simply want to enjoy a brief time of thinking, “What if?” Lotteries are based on the biblical principle against covetousness (Exodus 20:17). The Bible warns that those who covet money and the things it can purchase will suffer for their greed; in addition, they will find their hopes for better lives will ultimately fail (see Ecclesiastes 5:10).

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