The Flaws of the Lottery Industry


Despite the widespread and often bitter opposition to them, lotteries have become a staple of state government, raising billions for social services and education. Yet a number of fundamental flaws plague the lottery industry. These include the inability of state officials to manage the growth of a new industry; the failure to take into account the broader implications of gambling, including its effects on society and individual behavior; the continuing existence of racial and socioeconomic biases in lottery participation; and the proliferation of misleading advertisements and deceptive claims about winning the jackpot.

Moreover, the evolution of state lotteries has shown how fragmented policymaking has become in the modern age, with decisions being made piecemeal and incrementally and without any overall overview or review. Lottery decisions, for example, are almost always made by lottery managers and their staff rather than legislators and are subject to frequent turnover.

The main argument used to promote lotteries was that they were a way for states to raise money without having to increase taxes on working people. This was based on the false notion that people who play lotteries are doing so voluntarily, and that they therefore aren’t taxing anyone else.

But this is a dangerously naive assumption. In fact, people who play lotteries do it largely because they like the chance of winning, and the prize amounts are often quite large. Moreover, people often feel compelled to play in order to fulfill a social obligation, such as their civic duty to help the state.