The official lottery is a government-run game of chance that provides the public with an opportunity to win prizes in exchange for a small contribution. Most states offer a midday and an evening Numbers game each week, and the results are published shortly after the draws have taken place.
Lottery advocates promoted the games as a way for states to fill their coffers without raising taxes, keeping money in the pockets of average citizens. The fantasy turned out to be false; even in the first year of New Jersey’s lottery, proceeds were only a little more than two per cent of the state’s budget.
Today, 45 US states and the District of Columbia, along with Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, operate lotteries. Each jurisdiction offers its own instant-win games, as well as drawing and keno games. Some states participate in consortiums to offer multistate games with larger jackpots.
Those who defend the lottery often argue that it is no worse than any other form of gambling, and that people who choose to play do so on their own free will. But there’s a problem with that reasoning: the lottery is regressive, with sales rising fastest in neighborhoods disproportionately affected by economic turmoil, unemployment and poverty rates. The odds of winning are astronomically long, and the lottery is a dehumanising experience that reduces people to statistics. When you cast your lot, character, personality, social standing, race, creed, age and sex are all irrelevant.