The official lottery is a popular way for people to win money. The numbers drawn are randomly generated and can result in very large prizes.
In the United States, there are 45 states that offer some form of the official lottery. Several types of lotteries exist, including instant tickets, or scratch cards; three-digit and four-digit games akin to numbers games; a five number game; and a six number game (often with a jackpot).
State-run lottery systems have been around since 1934. In the US, most lotteries support public education and veterans’ programs.
The Lottery: A Budgetary Miracle
In his fascinating book The Great Game, David Cohen describes how lotteries emerged as an effective, nonpartisan answer to a growing national tax revolt. With federal dollars in short supply, state governments found themselves in need of new revenue streams.
To overcome this dilemma, a number of states began to consider the establishment of state-run lotteries. In 1964, the famously tax-averse New Hampshire approved its first state-run lottery; by 1973, 13 other states had followed.
Critics, however, pointed out that a lottery would not bring in sufficient revenue to cover the costs of a state’s existing services and questioned the morality of funding government programs through gambling. Moreover, some state-run lotteries were notoriously corrupt.
In the face of these concerns, however, advocates for the legalization of lotteries forged a compromise. Instead of arguing that a lottery could float a state’s entire budget, they claimed that it would provide enough revenue to fund a single line item–most often education, but sometimes elderly care or public parks. This narrower approach was a boon to those campaigning for the legalization of lotteries.