Is Running a Lottery at Cross-Purposes With the Public Interest?


A lottery is a type of gambling where participants bet on numbers drawn by chance. It is a popular activity for both people and businesses and can be played in many states throughout the United States. It can also be played online.

Lottery History

The earliest recorded lottery was a game of chance organized by Emperor Augustus in Rome to raise funds for repairs. Early lotteries also raised money for private ventures, such as the construction of roads and canals in colonial America.

Financial Lotteries

In modern times, financial lotteries are more common than historical lottery games. They involve betting a small amount of money on the outcome of a drawing and can result in large jackpots. They have been criticized as an addictive form of gambling and are often banned by state governments.

Public Policy

Lottery profits have typically been used by states to enhance infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, public education, and social services. They can be earmarked for a specific purpose or added to the general fund, which is then available for any other appropriation the legislature may make.


In addition to promoting gambling, lottery ads also often target particular groups, such as the poor or problem gamblers. While these targeted advertising strategies may increase revenues, they also increase disutility and have a potential for regressive impact on lower-income groups. This debate has evolved into a more fundamental question: Is running a lottery at cross-purposes with the larger public interest?