The Truth About Lottery

Lottery is a game of chance in which prizes are awarded to participants who win a drawing. Prizes can be anything from a free drink to a house. In the United States, there are several state-regulated lotteries.

In addition to the entertainment value that people get from playing, the cost of buying a lottery ticket may be offset by an expected utility, such as avoiding a monetary loss or achieving non-monetary goals. The cost of purchasing a ticket, however, is not always offset by the benefits. Americans spend more than $80 billion a year on lottery tickets, and a large percentage of winners end up broke within a few years of their win.

Cohen’s story is set in the time after World War II, when America enjoyed a period of prosperity. As a result, many states were able to expand their social safety nets without having to increase taxes or cut services. But in the 1960s, the postwar boom began to fade. Inflation and the cost of the Vietnam War brought state budgets to a breaking point.

Across the country, state legislatures approved lotteries as a way to raise revenue. They were initially popular with the public, which viewed them as a painless form of taxation. People could play and perhaps win money, and the proceeds would go to the poor. This arrangement was especially appealing to the working class, which was facing rising inflation and a shrinking middle class.