The Modern Version of the Official Lottery

Lotteries have become an integral part of the American fabric, with Americans spending more than $100 billion a year on tickets. But they weren’t always a fixture of public life. In fact, they sprang from the same moral and religious sensibilities that drove prohibitionists to ban gambling of all forms.

Historically, lotteries have taken many different forms, but the prize money has usually been a fixed percentage of ticket sales. This ensures that a winner will be declared even if the organizer’s share of revenue falls short of the prize amount. This type of lottery has been popularized in the United States by state-sanctioned games such as Powerball and Mega Millions.

Cohen explains that the modern version of the official lottery started in the nineteenth century, as states faced budget crises that were impossible to resolve without raising taxes or cutting services. “These options were highly unpopular with voters,” he says. “So a number of states turned to lotteries as an alternative.”

As the number of people who played these lotteries rose, so did the public’s distaste for them. This was partly due to religious and moral concerns, but also a growing awareness of the crookedness of lottery organizers.

In addition, there was a growing sense that lotteries were too lucrative for state governments to ignore. And this is where the modern version of the official lottery really got rolling. As soon as one state legalized a lottery, neighboring states jumped on board within a few years. Today, there are dozens of states that run lotteries.