The Official Lottery

The official lottery is a massive enterprise that does far more than just sell tickets. It is a powerful tool for state governments that can manipulate the public to do their bidding, and it is one that deserves scrutiny.

The first thing to realize is that states don’t just promote lottery games as ways of raising money for things like children’s programs or road repairs. They’re also promoting a particular message about how great that money is, as though it’s some sort of budgetary miracle that miraculously appeared out of thin air to save a sagging economy and avoid raising taxes. That’s not true, and it’s important to understand how much that money actually ends up being when compared to overall state revenue.

In reality, the amount that’s raised through lotteries ends up being about a third of one percent of total state revenues. The other two-thirds of the money is used to pay for administrative costs. This is a huge sum, but it’s not anywhere near what people think when they see those giant billboards on the highway.

Moreover, when you look at the total amounts of money that’s paid out to players, it’s actually quite small when compared to other forms of gambling. But that doesn’t stop people from buying in, and that’s because people like to gamble. There’s a certain inextricable human impulse to do so, and that’s why lotteries are so successful. They play to the psychological vulnerabilities of people and entice them with the promise of instant riches.