Is the Lottery an Appropriate State Activity?


Lottery is a popular way to raise money for state government. Its revenue has been growing steadily for years, but the growth rate has begun to plateau, leading states to seek new ways to maintain and increase revenues. One option they have explored is the introduction of new games, such as keno and video poker. These innovations may help the lottery remain popular, but they also pose a number of questions about whether this is an appropriate activity for the state to engage in.

In addition, the state’s promotion of gambling is at odds with the state’s interest in addressing problems such as poverty and problem gambling. Because a lottery is a business, its profitability depends on the number of tickets sold. To maximize profits, the lottery must advertise extensively to attract customers. But this advertising comes with costs, such as negative consequences for poor people and problem gamblers.

Some critics of the lottery argue that it is unethical to encourage gamblers to spend billions of dollars on tickets for a tiny chance of winning big. But it is important to recognize that lottery players as a group contribute millions of dollars in taxes that they would have otherwise saved for things like retirement or college tuition. They also make choices about how to invest their money, choosing from among a variety of low-risk investment options that may not be as ethical as saving in the stock market or investing in real estate.