Is It a Good Idea For States to Run a Lottery?


The lottery is a popular way for states to raise money for public projects without increasing taxes. But this form of gambling has a long and sometimes rocky history in America. It’s time to consider whether it’s still a good idea for state governments to run lotteries.

A lottery is a process by which prizes, such as money or goods, are allocated by chance. Prizes may be distributed to a single person or to groups of people. The first recorded lottery was a draw conducted by Roman Emperor Augustus to raise funds for city repairs. Later, European lotteries were used at dinner parties and to distribute fancy items such as dinnerware. The first recorded lottery offering tickets for sale and prize money was a drawing held in 1466 in Bruges, Belgium.

In the short story The Lottery, Shirley Jackson describes a village where traditions and rituals rule the community. In her eyes, these practices lead to nothing but evil and hypocrisy. She shows that the human soul is very deceiving and that we are always hiding behind superficial acts.

Modern state lotteries cost a dollar or less per play and give each participant a chance to choose numbers that will be included in a drawing to determine the winners. In the past, these games have raised billions of dollars for public works. But their growth has raised questions about how well they serve the public interest. For example, lottery players as a group contribute billions in government receipts that could be invested in other things such as education or retirement.