Opponents of the Official Lottery

For a long time, opponents of the official lottery raised questions about whether it was morally right for states to fund public services through gambling. They also wondered how much money a state really stood to gain, and what the percentage of lottery proceeds that actually reached government coffers might be. Such critics hailed from both political parties and all walks of life, but their most vociferous voices, Cohen notes, came from devout religious believers.

By the late twentieth century, though, the state-run lotteries had established themselves. They were “brought to the United States with a sense of necessity,” Cohen writes, fueled by America’s aversion to taxes. And in the end, these lotteries have “proved to be a useful way for states to raise money.”

In addition to the standard drawing game, most states offer instant scratch-off tickets as well. They also run keno, video lottery terminals, and games that resemble bingo.

A big issue with the lottery is how it preys on poor people, Bernal says. “They’re being convinced that they will someday get rich,” she said. “But the truth is that they’re continuously paying into a system that doesn’t give them anything back.” In fact, research shows that low-income Americans spend far more on lottery tickets than do those in other income brackets—and that means that states are transferring wealth out of their communities. “That’s a very bad thing to do,” Bernal says. “And that’s the real reason why I think there should be a national prohibition on gambling.”