The Official Lottery – The Numbers Game That enables Governments to Generate Money Out of Thin Air

Official lottery – the numbers game that enables governments to generate money seemingly out of thin air. The money can help maintain services and avoid the dreaded subject of raising taxes, which would likely be punished at the polls. Instead, politicians can point to the lottery and boast of “budgetary miracles.”

Lotteries are not a new phenomenon. There is evidence of them in the Low Countries in the 15th century to raise funds for town fortifications and the poor. But the modern state lottery is a new beast. Its success depends on super-sized jackpots, which drive sales by earning lottery games a flood of free publicity on newscasts and websites. But that strategy is fundamentally flawed.

State lottery games are now found in all of the United States and most European and Latin American nations. But there is no national lottery organization, and individual state lotteries operate independently from one another. Some form consortiums to offer games that span larger geographic footprints and carry bigger jackpots.

Although gambling is legal in most states, state lotteries remain controversial. Their history is a tale of moral and financial ups and downs. They were once dismissed by many religious and political leaders as unworthy of the honorable business of public service. But after a few decades of noisy campaigning and wildly inflated claims, the public now sees them as vital to schools, health care, and other services. Yet, in reality, the money from lotteries is regressive and takes a disproportionate toll on the poor.