Raising Money Through the Lottery


The casting of lots for decisions and determining fates by chance has a long record in human history. The lottery, however, has more recently come to be used for raising money for a wide variety of public usages. The state-owned Staatsloterij in the Netherlands is the oldest running lottery, having been established in 1726. Lotteries have been promoted by many states and have proved to be a very popular method for raising money. Their premise is that players will voluntarily spend their money for the benefit of the public. They are often hailed as a painless form of taxation.

Almost all state-sponsored lotteries have broad, continuing public approval. They have gained popularity as a way to raise money for a variety of state public purposes, including education. The principal argument for their adoption has been that they offer an alternative to raising taxes and cutting other public programs, which are usually viewed as painful. State governments also like the idea that lotteries generate revenue without creating unpopularity.

A state’s lottery operations are complex and subject to constant evolution. The management of the lottery is often fragmented, with responsibility and authority divided between the legislative and executive branches. The result is that the operation often evolves in ways that conflict with other government policies, notably those relating to the prevention of gambling addictions and other social problems. In addition, because the lottery is run as a business with a focus on maximizing revenues, it must constantly advertise to attract new patrons.