The Benefits of Playing the Lottery

While casting lots to make decisions and determine fates has a long record in human history, the lottery as a form of material gain is more recent. Lotteries began in the 15th century, although the word itself dates only from the early 16th century (perhaps a calque on Middle Dutch loterie).

States adopt and regulate lotteries to raise revenue for public purposes. They usually set up a state agency or public corporation to run the lottery; begin operations with a modest number of relatively simple games; and, driven by a need for additional revenues, progressively expand the number and complexity of games.

Many people see purchasing a lottery ticket as an acceptable low-risk investment—especially when the odds of winning are so slight. But the reality is that as a group, lottery players contribute billions in lottery receipts to government coffers that could be better used on retirement or college tuition. In addition, playing the lottery erodes saving habits in children and families.

A portion of each ticket purchase goes towards the costs of running the lottery system, which includes designing scratch-off games, recording live drawing events, updating websites and working at lottery headquarters to help winners claim prizes. And of course, a certain amount of money comes back to retailers and other employees, as well as to the state lottery’s general fund. Ultimately, the question is not whether lottery systems profit, but how much they benefit society at large.

By purethoughtshorserescue
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