About the official lottery
The official lottery is a gambling game operated by governments. Its main attraction is its jackpots, which can range in size from millions to billions of dollars.
Most lotteries are based on a system of pooling tickets and distributing them by chance. This involves a random number generator or other computer procedure. In other instances, lottery drawings are conducted by mechanical means, such as shaking or tossing.
In many states, state lotteries are marketed to raise funds for education — including K-12, college or both. A few states use lottery revenue for other purposes, like road and park maintenance.
But a recent report from the Howard Center found that while lotteries can raise revenue, they often create inequities that are “disproportionately benefiting” college students and wealthier school districts far from the neighborhoods where lottery tickets are sold. This, researchers say, can lead low-income communities to think they can build their own wealth through lotteries, even though they have very low chances of winning.
The report points out that while low-income people might be lured to buy tickets because they can’t afford to pay for their kids’ education, they’re actually paying to fund college scholarships for middle-class and upper-class families. This creates a “race-based” transfer of wealth from poor to rich, researchers say.
The report also notes that lotteries are regressive, in that lower-income groups spend more of their budgets on tickets than higher-income groups do. This regressivity is especially true in instant scratch-off games, which studies show attract more lower-income players than big jackpot drawings.