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The lottery started in the United States as a kind of morally ambiguous form of government revenue, an attempt to raise money for some specific social safety net, and a way for people to win big. The immediate post-World War II period was one of relative prosperity, and state governments were able to expand their array of services without imposing particularly burdensome taxes on working class people.
Lottery proceeds have helped fund a number of public projects, including education and roads. But it’s important to remember that the vast majority of lottery money goes to individual winners, not the state. And when you put that amount in perspective, it turns out to be a small drop in the bucket of actual state budgets.
The New York State Lottery started in 1967, and its first slogan was “Your Chance of a Lifetime to Help Education.” Since then, it has raised billions of dollars for schools. But for most people, the only real benefit of the lottery is that it can give them a good shot at winning some money. For that reason, people are willing to buy a ticket for every chance of getting rich. And the odds are very much in their favor. That’s what keeps people playing, and why the lottery has been so successful in attracting people from across the country and world.