The Modern Era of Lottery

Since 1964, when New Hampshire launched the modern era of state lotteries, many more have followed suit, and today 37 states offer state-sanctioned lotteries. Lottery mania has also spread to a few countries in Europe, including Russia and Japan.

Despite their improbability, lotteries generate loads of eagerness and dreams for winning big. Even people who never otherwise gamble buy lottery tickets, hoping to become rich by chance, or at least win enough money for a better life. Lottery prizes can be cash or goods. They can also be services like kindergarten admission or a job with a prestigious company, or coveted sports draft picks.

The earliest examples of state-sponsored lotteries can be traced to the Low Countries in the 15th century, where town records show that lottery games were used to raise funds for such things as town fortifications and to help the poor. The word “lottery” itself probably derives from Middle Dutch loterie, or from Old French, loterie, both of which are derived from the same root, the Middle High German verb lotta.

Nevertheless, critics argue that, whatever their role in raising revenue, lotteries are fundamentally undesirable. They promote addictive gambling, impose a heavy regressive burden on lower-income groups, and create an inherent conflict between government’s desire for revenue and its responsibility to protect the public welfare. These and other criticisms have shifted the focus of lotteries from whether they should be established to how well they are managed.