How the Lottery Funds State Governments

Lottery is a fixture in American society, with Americans spending upward of $100 billion per year on tickets. But despite what some people think, it’s not just an innocent way to pass the time. It’s also a significant source of money for state governments. And while I don’t want to argue that the state lottery is inherently bad, it certainly warrants scrutiny.

Most states use the lottery as a means of raising funds for various public projects, like roads, schools, libraries, canals, and bridges. In colonial America, lotteries helped finance the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton, and they were an integral part of the financing of the Revolutionary War. In modern times, they’ve financed a variety of public and private ventures, including sports teams.

Some lottery players use a system of their own design, such as selecting the numbers that are important to them or using dates from their lives to pick their numbers. While these strategies won’t improve your odds of winning by much, they can help you choose the right numbers to play.

But the biggest message that lottery commissions rely on is that playing the lottery is a good thing because it raises money for states. It’s a naive view that assumes that those who play the lottery are doing their civic duty to support their government. But the truth is that the amount of money that lottery players give to their state is a tiny fraction of overall state revenue and won’t do anything to improve services for low-income families.