The Official Lottery

The official lottery is a game in which participants purchase tickets for a chance to win a prize. Often the prizes are cash, but sometimes goods or services are offered. Ticket sales are regulated by law to ensure transparency and security, and there are usually rules governing the frequency and size of prizes. A portion of proceeds normally goes to organizing and promoting the lottery, with the remainder available for winners. In some cultures, the prizes are very large, while in others they are relatively small.

Cohen’s article explores how the modern lottery developed in America, where he observes that “states desperately needed new revenue sources that would not enrage a growing antitax electorate.” The solution came with the late-twentieth-century tax revolt, when voters began cutting property taxes and turning to lotteries to fund social safety net programs.

Initially, critics questioned both the morality of gambling to fund government and how much states really stood to gain from such ventures. These critics hailed from all walks of life, but the most vociferous opponents were devout Protestants who regarded state-sanctioned gambling as sinful.

The debate over the lottery continues today. Recently, New York Senator Joe Addabbo reintroduced a bill that would allow lottery winners to celebrate their wins publicly, arguing that such public celebrations help to maximize public safety and that it is not fair to allow some people to hide their winnings from family members or friends. In addition, he argues that the publicity of winners also discourages financial advisors and solicitors from harassing them.