The Dangers of Lottery

Lottery is a game in which players pay for tickets and then win prizes if their numbers match those randomly selected by machines. It has a long history in Europe, and was brought to America by British colonists. The lottery was once a source of much-needed public finance, financing roads, libraries, churches, canals, and colleges. During the American Revolution, it was even tangled up with slavery, as a former enslaved man purchased his freedom in a South Carolina lottery and went on to foment a slave rebellion.

Nevertheless, the lottery has always had a toxic underbelly, and that is its addiction-inducing nature. People buy into it because they like to gamble, but more than that, people play because they feel a glimmer of hope that they could one day be rich, even though the odds of winning are very low. Lotteries are a form of gambling that exploits human psychology, and they are not above using the same strategies as tobacco companies or video-game makers.

Many state governments have adopted a lottery to help fund their services without increasing their already onerous taxes on the middle class and working poor. While this was a legitimate strategy in the immediate post-World War II period, it has proved unsustainable. As revenues flatten and then decline, officials are forced to innovate in order to keep people playing. This has led to a proliferation of new games, from scratch-off tickets to keno and video poker.