History of Lottery


Lottery is a form of gambling in which people choose numbers to win a prize. It can be played individually or with friends and family members, and is usually based on drawing random numbers in order to select winners. In addition to the prize money, some lotteries provide entertainment value to players. Lottery tickets may be purchased for a small fee, and the winner can receive a large sum of money. For some people, the entertainment value of lottery play is enough to outweigh the cost and risk of losing money. This is known as the expected utility of lottery play.

Throughout history, many different societies have used lottery to distribute property or goods. The Old Testament instructs Moses to divide land by lot; the Romans favored it as an alternative way of granting property and slaves; and European colonists brought it to the United States, where it became a controversial practice. But by the immediate post-World War II period, it had become popular among Americans to support state lotteries.

Cohen argues that they were motivated less by social concerns than by the fear that state government could no longer maintain its array of services without onerous taxes on middle and working-class families. Lotteries were seen as a way to boost tax revenue, mainly in Northeastern states with larger social safety nets.

Lottery advocates dropped long-standing ethical objections and argued that, since gamblers were going to gamble anyway, governments should at least collect the profits. This strategy, though flawed, provided moral cover for people who were eager to approve the game.

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