May 23, 2024


About Lottery

In the immediate post-World War II period, many states could expand their array of services without especially onerous taxes on the middle class and working class. That arrangement began to crumble with inflation and the cost of the Vietnam War. Increasingly, voters came to understand that the lottery was an important source of “painless” revenue that helped keep state government running.

But the state-run lottery also draws criticism. The argument is that the promotion of gambling has negative consequences for poor people, problem gamblers, and other vulnerable groups. And that the reliance on lottery revenues puts state governments at cross-purposes with the public interest.

As a result, the debate over lottery policy tends to focus on the specific operations of lotteries rather than the desirability of the games themselves. Lottery officials tout the value of a system that aims to maximize revenues while promoting fair play and social responsibility.

And a portion of the ticket price goes toward covering overhead costs: the designers who create scratch-off tickets, the people who record live drawing events and make videos online, and the employees at headquarters who help winners with their money.

But the lottery’s biggest marketing asset is that it taps into a widespread sense of helplessness. In a world where jobs are disappearing and houses are becoming increasingly unaffordable, many people feel that the chance to win is their last, best or only hope at a better future.