Raising Funds For Public Projects Through the Lottery
The lottery has long been a popular way to raise funds for public projects. Its roots are in ancient times; the Old Testament instructs Moses to conduct a census of Israel and divide its land by lot, and Roman emperors used it for giving away property and slaves. During the colonial period, many states sponsored lottery games, and Benjamin Franklin even raised money for cannons to defend Philadelphia. In the modern era, lotteries continue to play an important role in raising funds for state and local governments.
Lottery advertising often portrays big jackpot prizes as life-changers and encourages people to buy tickets for a shot at winning them. It is common for these promotions to make false or misleading statements about the odds of winning and the potential future value of a prize (lotto jackpots are usually paid in equal annual installments over 20 years, with inflation dramatically eroding the current value).
Aside from the inextricable human impulse to gamble, one reason that lotteries are so popular is that they offer a glimmer of hope that someone will become rich overnight. But is it fair to dangle this dream in the face of people who can’t afford it, and do lotteries promote a more pronounced inequality in America? Like other forms of government gambling, lottery is a classic case in which the establishment and evolution of policy are driven by market forces, with little overall consideration of their effects on society.