In Part One, Chapter Eight of “1984,” as Winston is walking past a pub where the proles frequented, he sees a group of men gathered close together. One is holding a newspaper and they are all concentrating hard on it. Winston can tell by the expression on their faces that this was “serious piece of news” that they were reading. The group broke up, but two of the men almost came to blows over what they were reading. It was the results of the Lottery.
To many of the proles, the Lottery was the sole reason for living.
In this chapter of 1984, Winston learns that the proles consider the lottery to be a serious piece of news. He realises this after observing three prole men as they read a newspaper. Judging from their expression, he thinks that they are reading and discussing some bad or serious news, like politics or the war, when, in fact, it is just a conversation about the lottery.
In Oceania, the lottery is a serious event for the proles, as Winston explains:
It was probable that there were some millions of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive. It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant.
The fact that proles take the lottery so seriously tells us much about the nature of life in Oceania. It demonstrates, for example, that the proles present no serious threat to the Party because they are easily distracted from their inferior social position by the lottery. In addition, that the Party only awards the small prizes (and gives the bigger ones to "non-existent people") shows that material wealth is important to the Party and that its members do not want to enrich the proles, for fear that it will improve their socio-economic position.