Categories: Gambling

The History of Lottery

Lottery is a game of chance in which players purchase tickets for a prize whose distribution depends entirely on chance. It can be played by anyone who has enough money to purchase a ticket. Prizes may range from a few dollars to millions of dollars. The game is a popular way to raise funds for charitable causes and public works.

The casting of lots has a long history, with instances dating back centuries to ancient times—Nero liked to play it, and it’s attested in the Bible; from there, it spread to the Renaissance and beyond, where lottery games were used for everything from divvying up property to awarding slaves. But despite the games’ ancient roots, when they started to be used for material gain, many people found them abhorrent.

In the early years of state-run lotteries, critics focused on the idea that gambling profits could be diverted from other state needs. But as the nation’s tax revolt of the late twentieth century intensified, the objections to lotteries receded. Lottery supporters argued that people were going to gamble anyway, so the government might as well pocket the proceeds.

Lottery revenues usually expand quickly, then level off and decline. The result has been a constant push for new games to maintain or increase revenue streams. But the result is that players can become bored with the same old games, and politicians may be tempted to shift priorities in order to boost profits.

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