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Lottery Politics

Lottery is a popular form of gambling in which people buy tickets and hope to win a prize. State-run lotteries are common in the United States and many other countries. People spend billions of dollars on lottery tickets each year, although the odds are very low that they will be the one to win the jackpot. Some people play for fun while others believe that winning the lottery will give them a better life.

Lotteries have long been a favorite source of public funding, especially in the immediate post-World War II period when states sought ways to expand their array of services without raising taxes on middle and working class citizens. This was a time when America was both short on money and long on public works needs, so lotteries provided a solution that suited the national mood of exigency.

As the country became more racially and economically mixed, however, lotteries began to lose their appeal. In addition to the fact that they are not as effective at raising revenue as some other types of taxation, they tend to promote a mythology about state government that is at odds with the way that voters actually think about how taxes are used.

In addition, lotteries tend to develop extensive and specific constituencies: convenience store operators who sell the tickets; suppliers of state-sponsored products (heavy contributions from these firms are often reported); teachers in those states where lottery revenues are earmarked for education; and state legislators, who quickly become accustomed to the steady flow of new money. This kind of politics is not only unfair; it’s also irrational.