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Lottery – A History of Gambling

Lottery – A History of Gambling


Lottery is a form of gambling that involves the drawing of numbers at random for a prize. Some governments outlaw it, while others endorse it to the extent of organizing a state or national lottery. In the immediate post-World War II period, lottery revenues allowed states to expand their array of services without especially onerous taxes on middle and working class citizens.

State lotteries generally follow the same pattern: they legislate a monopoly for themselves; establish a state agency or public corporation to run the lottery (as opposed to licensing private firms in return for a cut of the profits); begin operations with a modest number of relatively simple games; and, as pressure to increase revenues grows, progressively introduce new games. Lottery marketing strategies rely on two messages primarily: the first promotes gambling as an exciting and entertaining experience that can provide a gratifying sense of accomplishment. The second is aimed at convincing the public that the money they spend on tickets helps to support a particular public good. This argument is particularly effective in times of economic stress when the proceeds are seen as alleviating an unpopular tax increase or avoiding cuts in government services.

Lotteries have a long history in the West, dating back to the casting of lots to determine fates and municipal repairs in ancient Rome. The first recorded European public lottery to award money prizes was held in Bruges, Belgium, in 1466, for the announced purpose of helping the poor.