The Official Lottery

Official lottery:

A gambling game in which tickets are sold and a drawing held for prizes, including money and goods. Lotteries are often organized so that a large percentage of profits is donated to good causes.

In the 1800s, gambling came under intense criticism from a variety of sources. Among these were moral religious concerns, a wave of scandals and the belief that lotteries targeted the poor. In the end, gambling and lottery games were banned in most states for a time, although there were many illegal lotteries.

The first modern government-run US lottery was established in Puerto Rico in 1934, followed by New Hampshire in 1964. Many states today also operate a state-sanctioned lottery. Various lottery games are offered, such as instant tickets (scratch-offs), keno and video lottery terminals. Some states also offer online lotteries.

In colonial America, public lotteries played a large role in financing private and public projects, from roads and canals to colleges, churches and the foundation of Harvard and Yale Universities. In addition, a number of colonies raised money with lotteries to fund their militias during the French and Indian War. Today, most state lotteries raise about one per cent of each state’s revenue. While this amount matters, the fact is that it comes from a source of income that’s sensitive to economic fluctuations. Moreover, as Cohen points out, lottery sales increase in communities that are disproportionately poor or Black. In other words, these funds are regressive.