The state lottery is a game of chance operated by a state government that pays out prize money in exchange for purchasing tickets. It’s a way for states to raise funding for education, transportation and other projects without raising taxes.
The first state lottery was established in New Hampshire in 1964 and has since been adopted by 13 other states, primarily in the northeast and Rust Belt. These lotteries were backed by state lawmakers who argued that the money raised would be used to help their communities, while also giving people the chance to win huge sums of money.
Critics questioned both the ethics of using gambling to fund public services and the amount of money that state governments stood to gain. The most vociferous of these critics were devout Protestants, who believed that government-sanctioned lotteries were morally unconscionable.
While the state lottery has been a source of controversy, it is a valuable income for many states. The average ticket costs about a dollar and each year, the state takes in billions of dollars in profits that are used to fund state government operations and pay out prize money.
Those revenues are a critical source of state revenue, especially in an anti-tax era. But a number of states, including Massachusetts, have already taken steps to limit advertising of their state lotteries.
Weaning a state from its addiction to lottery advertising could be difficult, but it would be worthwhile. While the state might lose some lottery revenue, tax revenues would likely increase as citizens returned to working and saving for their futures.