Search for:
  • Home/
  • Blog/
  • Public Benefits of the Lottery

Public Benefits of the Lottery

While the casting of lots to determine fates has a long history, the use of lotteries to raise money for material gain is relatively recent in human society. The modern lottery is a highly developed public service, raising billions of dollars per year for state governments.

State lotteries have broad public approval and remain popular even during periods of fiscal stress, when they might seem to be a tempting alternative to tax increases or cuts in public programs. This broad support is based largely on the perception that lottery revenues are used to support specific public goods, such as education.

In the United States, most lottery revenue is generated from a small percentage of players, who are disproportionately drawn from middle-income neighborhoods. However, the poor participate in lotteries at levels that are a fraction of their percentage in the overall population, and the young and the old play less frequently than those in the middle age range. Lotteries also have a long and distinguished history in America, with many of the first colonies using them to finance public works projects. Benjamin Franklin promoted a lottery to raise funds for cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British, and Thomas Jefferson attempted to hold one to alleviate his crushing debts.

Lotteries are a form of gambling, and their advertisements are designed to encourage people to gamble. But does this marketing contribute to problems with poverty and problem gambling, and is it a proper function for government? Moreover, because lottery commissions are run as businesses with a focus on maximizing revenues, their advertising necessarily promotes the concept that winning the lottery will bring you great pleasure.