Public Policy and Lottery
Lottery is a form of gambling that involves drawing numbers to win a prize. The prizes range from cash to goods. The majority of lottery funds are distributed to winners, while the remaining percentage is used for administrative costs such as advertising, staff salaries, ticket printing, legal fees, and other overhead. Retailers also receive commissions on tickets sold and bonus payments for selling jackpot-winning tickets.
Lotteries have been around for thousands of years, and they’ve always served as a convenient way to raise money. However, the modern era of state-sanctioned lotteries began in the 1960s. At that time, states needed an easy, fast source of revenue to finance their growing array of social services.
The public was sold the idea that lotteries are a good thing because they help fund education and other public programs. But the truth is that the regressive impact of lotteries makes them an unfair burden on people with lower incomes. The poorest third of households buy the most lottery tickets, and research has shown that state lotteries advertise their games most aggressively in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
In the end, the real problem is that state officials allow lottery operations to operate at cross-purposes with public policy. Rather than operating on the basis of an overarching philosophy and clear goals, lottery directors tend to follow the crowd. They cater to specific interests – convenience store owners; lottery suppliers (heavy contributions by these businesses to state political campaigns are routinely reported); teachers in those states that earmark lottery revenues for education; and legislators, who quickly become accustomed to the extra revenue.