The Official Lottery

The official lottery is a system of redistribution of money or prizes in which numbers are drawn from a pool of entries to determine winners. Lotteries are generally considered to be a form of gambling, though some argue that they are a useful alternative to more regressive taxation. The New York state lottery began operations in 1967 and claims that more than 34 billion dollars in revenue has been directed to educational purposes.

While some states have a legal monopoly over their lotteries, others allow private companies to sell tickets and manage the games. Lotteries are not without their critics, who raise questions about both the ethics of funding public services through gambling and the amount of money that states actually stand to gain. In the United States, for example, devout Protestants tended to oppose lotteries while Black voters supported them because they believed that government-sponsored gambling would help reduce friction with police officers who frequently used number games as a reason to arrest and harass black people.

Lotteries are a great way for state governments to generate some cash without raising taxes on middle- and working-class citizens, but they’re also inefficiently collected and, by some estimates, just a drop in the bucket compared with total state income and expenditure. And it’s not as if the public isn’t already gambling; millions of people play the lottery, and it’s not hard to see why: it’s fun. But, as a recent study by the University of Michigan found, that “fun” is not enough to keep people playing.