The Popularity of the Lottery


Those who play the lottery have a pretty clear idea of what they’re doing: gambling for a big prize with long odds. They also know that they’re probably not going to win, but there’s a sliver of hope that someone else will.

Lotteries are the most popular form of state-sponsored gambling in the United States. They are a major source of revenue for many state governments and have become a significant part of American culture. Despite the fact that they are a form of gambling, they are generally seen as “voluntary taxes.” In addition to helping to fund a number of colleges and universities, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, King’s College (now Columbia), William and Mary, Union, and Brown, lottery revenues have also been used to fortify cities, aid poor people, and pay for wars.

Lotteries have gained popularity largely because they are seen as contributing to a particular public good, such as education. This is a powerful message, especially in times of economic stress when the benefits of lotteries are emphasized as an alternative to tax increases or cuts in other state programs. However, studies have shown that the popularity of lotteries does not seem to be related to the objective fiscal circumstances of state governments. This may have to do with the fact that lottery proceeds are usually a separate stream of revenue from other state income. As a result, the state government does not feel as if it is becoming dependent on a new source of revenue.