How Important is the Lottery to State Budgets?
Lottery is a popular way for governments to raise money for projects without raising taxes. People spend more than $100 billion on lottery tickets each year, making it the country’s most popular form of gambling. Some states use the revenue to fund education, while others spend it on other projects or give it away in prizes. But just how significant that revenue is to broader state budgets, and how much it’s worth the trade-off of people losing money, merits some scrutiny.
In ancient times, rulers used the process of lot to distribute land and other property among their subjects, as well as slaves. Benjamin Franklin held a lottery to raise funds to build a battery of cannons for Philadelphia, and George Washington was a manager for Col. Bernard Moore’s slave lottery in 1769, which advertised the sale of land and slaves in The Virginia Gazette.
Today, most state lotteries are regulated by laws passed by their legislatures. They typically have a dedicated lottery division that selects and licenses retailers, trains employees of these retailers to operate lottery terminals, sells tickets, redeems winning tickets, pays high-tier prizes, and assists retailers in promoting the game. They also ensure that retailers and players comply with the law, by requiring them to display advertising for the lottery and report revenue. Moreover, they are responsible for enforcing the law against fraud and other illegal activities.