The Official Lottery

The lottery is a form of gambling in which numbers are drawn to win a prize. Originally, it was a system run by the state for public benefit, but is now mainly operated by private corporations. It is a popular form of entertainment in many countries. In addition to generating excitement, the prizes of some lotteries have been used to fund important projects. For example, John Hancock ran a lottery to help build Boston’s Faneuil Hall, and George Washington ran one for the construction of a road over a mountain pass in Virginia.

The official lottery, also known as the national or state lottery, is a government-sponsored game of chance in which the winning ticket holder receives a cash prize. The official lotteries are operated by states, the federal government and some municipalities. The profits from the games are primarily used for education, although some states use them to raise funds for other purposes.

In his article, Cohen describes how state legislators were attracted to lotteries as “budgetary miracles.” As he explains, the nineteen-sixties brought rising inflation and a heavy burden of social welfare costs to most states, making it difficult to balance budgets without raising taxes or cutting services. Lotteries, they argued, would allow them to generate enormous sums of money seemingly out of thin air, relieving them of the need to raise taxes or cut vital programs.

But critics arose on both sides of the political aisle, with religious leaders accusing government-sanctioned lotteries of exploiting poor people. Some philosophers and bishops complained that the numbers games were immoral because they deprived the poor of their earnings.