The Official Lottery

The official lottery is a government-run game that draws numbers for the purpose of distributing prizes. It is regulated by state laws regarding operations and accounting; distribution of proceeds; and activities considered illegal. It also supports public education and other infrastructure. Most states have one or more lotteries. Some lotteries offer Instant Scratch-Off games, while others have multi-million dollar jackpot drawings. The Pennsylvania Lottery is an example of the latter.

Early America was short on revenue and long on the need for public works, and so a variety of solutions emerged to fund the nation’s growth and expansion. Despite moral objections, some of these leaned heavily toward gambling. For a time, advocates promoted the idea of state-run lotteries as a solution to budget problems. They argued that, because people were going to gamble anyway, governments might as well profit from their habit. The argument had its limits–by its logic, the government should also sell heroin–but it offered moral cover for voters who approved of gambling.

As state lottery profits rose, defenders began to downplay the regressive nature of the industry, and its effect on poorer Americans. Nonetheless, research shows that ticket sales increase as incomes decline, unemployment rises, and poverty rates climb. Furthermore, a significant percentage of lottery advertising is targeted at communities that are disproportionately poor, Black, or Latino. Ultimately, Cohen argues that lotteries should not exist in modern America. Considering their regressive effects, the way they encourage gambling addictions, and the fact that they discourage normal taxation, they do not serve the interests of the state they purport to benefit.