Official lottery results for your state, plus info on upcoming jackpots and other news.
Lotteries are a popular way to raise money for public purposes, but they can also be a terrible idea. The problem is not just that the money raised is squandered; it’s that, by encouraging gambling addictions and discouraging normal taxation, they also make it harder for states to balance their budgets.
During the nineteen-sixties, as inflation and war costs began to erode America’s economic boom, the public’s awareness of all the money to be made in gambling came into contact with a growing crisis in state funding. For many states, especially those that offered a generous social safety net, balancing the budget became impossible without raising taxes or cutting services, both of which would have been wildly unpopular with voters.
To solve this dilemma, advocates of legalizing lotteries began to use different strategies. Instead of arguing that the revenue from a lottery would float most of a state’s budget, they emphasized the fact that it would cover a specific line item, usually education but sometimes other public goods like elder care or public parks. This strategy weakened the arguments of those who opposed the lottery because it made it clear that voting for a lottery was not, as some claimed, a vote against public services. But it did mean that lottery supporters were less likely to get caught up in a phony moral debate over whether gambling was “right or wrong.” The more serious objections remained: lotteries were regressive, they promoted gambling addictions and discouraged normal taxation, and their modest financial contributions were a pittance compared to the amount of public spending they diverted from productive activities.