Lottery Profits – The Advantages and Disadvantages of State Lotteries

The casting of lots to determine fates and share possessions has a long history in human society. In the modern era, state lotteries were introduced in order to raise money for public purposes. Lottery proceeds have been used to fund public buildings, roads, canals, colleges, churches and libraries, among other things. However, these lottery funds have generated controversy and criticism in the form of arguments that it is not appropriate for government to use tax dollars to fund gambling.

The primary argument for state-sponsored lotteries is that they serve a “painless” purpose by providing state government with much-needed revenue without raising taxes. This is a convincing argument, especially in times of economic stress, when state governments need to generate more money to meet budgetary demands. But it also has the effect of promoting lotteries as a substitute for taxation, and it may contribute to the public perception that lotteries are inherently addictive and regressive.

Moreover, because state lotteries are businesses that must focus on maximizing revenues, they must compete in a highly specialized market, where they must convince specific groups of consumers to spend their disposable incomes on lottery tickets. These groups include convenience store owners (the typical vendors for state lotteries); lottery suppliers (heavy contributions from these firms to state political campaigns are often reported); teachers (in states where lottery proceeds are earmarked for education); and the general public, which grows accustomed to the existence of lotteries and consumes large quantities of their products.