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The History of the Lottery


Lottery is a form of gambling in which prizes are allocated to players through a process that relies wholly on chance. If a significant proportion of people wish to participate in such an arrangement, it cannot reasonably be expected that the state should stop them from doing so.

The prize money in lottery games is usually quite small. In many cases, it is less than the lump sum that a winner might expect to pocket, after taking into account taxes and withholdings. It is also important to remember that winnings in lotteries are typically paid out over an extended period of time, not all at once.

Cohen argues that the modern incarnation of the lottery began in the nineteen sixties, when awareness of all the potential money to be made in gambling collided with a crisis in state funding. With population growth and inflation soaring, the ability of states to maintain their social safety net and fund public works was threatened. It was not possible to balance the budget without raising taxes or cutting services, and both options were extremely unpopular with voters.

In order to solve this dilemma, governments turned to lotteries. The idea was that if people were enticed to play, the state could sell tickets and raise enough revenue to meet its needs. Lotteries were often advertised as “budgetary miracles,” a way for politicians to make funds appear out of thin air. And so, despite their inherently speculative nature, they became popular.

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