How the Lottery Affects Public Opinion

The lottery is a classic example of policy made piecemeal and incrementally, with the result that public officials become dependent on an activity from which they profit and unable to manage it. This is particularly true of state governments, which have grown to depend on the relatively painless revenues generated by lottery play and are thus reluctant to reduce or even examine their participation in gambling. Lottery officials are also under pressure to increase the size of prizes and to expand into new forms of gambling, such as video poker and keno, in order to meet revenue expectations and generate new revenues.

While the practice of making decisions or determining fates by lot has a long history (including several instances in the Bible), the use of lotteries for material gain is relatively recent. However, lotteries have a powerful impact on public opinion and have been adopted in many countries as a method of raising money for a variety of purposes, from education to municipal repairs.

Lottery is a complex topic, with debates ranging from whether it has an effect on the social fabric to questions about how much people should spend on tickets. What is clear, however, is that people spend a great deal of time and energy trying to win the lottery. It is easy to scoff at the millions of Americans who regularly spend $50 or $100 a week on tickets, but it’s important to remember that these individuals are hardly alone: Americans spend more than $80 billion per year on lottery games.