The Official Lottery
The official lottery is a system for financing public projects by selling tickets with numbers. It is a form of gambling that is legalized and regulated by the state for public benefit. It can be a good way to raise money for a variety of different reasons such as education, roads or hospitals. The idea of the lottery was first introduced in Europe and later became popular in America. In the early years of America, many public and private lotteries were held, despite strong Protestant proscriptions against gambling. The Massachusetts Bay Colony held its first authorized lottery in 1745, and by 1832, the Boston Mercantile Journal reported that 420 had been held in the previous year alone. Lotteries helped finance the European settlement of the continent, as well as much of the building of colonial American cities and towns. They were also used to fund a number of colleges, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale and King’s College (now Columbia).
By the nineteen-sixties, as inflation, rising population, and the cost of fighting wars started to strain state budgets, finding enough money for essential services became increasingly difficult without raising taxes or cutting programs. Increasingly, legislators turned to the lottery in search of revenue.
A flurry of advertising and high-profile campaigns touted the benefits of lotteries, such as their role in helping to support public schools. In its first year, the California lottery brought in five percent of the state’s education budget. While these campaigns were remarkably effective, they were also misleading. For one thing, they wildly overstated the amount of money that state lotteries were actually bringing in. In reality, the proceeds from these games were largely going to affluent white voters.
As the nineteen-sixties progressed, however, these white voters began to realize that, if states were to continue funding their generous social safety nets, they would need to either start taxing or stop running lotteries. In fact, as Cohen explains, many of them “were explicitly against the idea that their states should make money off their gambling.”
While state lotteries are legal in all 50 states, laws on gambling and lotteries are decided at a local level. The five states that do not have lotteries have a wide range of reasons for abstaining, from a desire to protect the state’s tourism industry to religious objections. It is important to remember that gambling is a dangerous and addictive activity, especially for people with mental health issues, and it can be harmful for children. People with gambling problems should seek help from a professional. If you think you have a problem, contact 1-800-BETS OFF. You can also visit the Iowa Lottery website for more information.