About Official Lottery

About official lottery

Lotteries have long been a source of revenue for government, even if critics denounce them as morally dubious. The early American lottery system, which grew so large that it was a monopoly, spawned a host of scandals. Despite the bad publicity, it lasted until the 1880s, when Congress broke it up.

The lottery has been a recurring feature in the United States since then, but public attitudes about it have changed dramatically. The state-run games that sprung up in the late nineteen-twenties were pitched to voters as an alternative to a range of taxes. They supposedly would not only cover state spending on education but also a number of other services, including elder care, public parks, and aid to veterans. These campaigns proved remarkably effective.

But, as Cohen explains, they were often misleading. For one thing, they wildly inflated the impact that lottery funds could have on state finances. Lottery proceeds, for example, cover only about five per cent of California’s school budget.

Another problem with these campaigns was that they made the idea of a national lottery seem a little less absurd. As soon as a state legalized its version of the game, it usually began to band together with its neighbors to offer bigger games with higher jackpots. Eventually, these consortiums created multi-state games like Powerball and Mega Millions, which are de facto national lotteries. The games are played in 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The prizes can be enormous—millions of dollars, for instance. But they do not solve the nation’s fiscal problems.