The lottery is a form of gambling in which players pay a small fee for a chance to win big money. In the United States, people spend about $80 billion on lotteries each year. Many Americans believe winning the lottery will improve their life, but the odds of winning are very low.
This article explains how the lottery works, and why it’s not a good idea for most people to play. It’s a great resource for kids & teens, or can be used by teachers & parents as part of a financial literacy curriculum.
For many state politicians, Cohen writes, the lottery seemed like a “budgetary miracle.” It was a way to fund a service that voters demanded without raising taxes. “In a largely antitax era, governments at every level have come to depend on ‘painless’ lottery revenues,” and pressures are always there to increase those revenues.
Lottery proceeds have been devoted to everything from building town fortifications to providing free food to the poor. Benjamin Franklin held a lottery to raise funds for the purchase of cannons that would defend Philadelphia against the British. In modern times, state-sponsored lotteries have become popular sources of money for a variety of government services, including education, elder care, public parks, and aid to veterans.
The popularity of the lottery depends on the degree to which it is seen as serving a public purpose. During economic stress, the lottery’s benefits as a source of painless revenue are especially apparent. But it has also won widespread support when the state’s objective fiscal condition is healthy.