Is Lottery a Good Idea?


Lottery is a form of gambling where people purchase tickets for a chance to win large sums of money through a random drawing. State and federal governments often run these games, which have the potential to affect many lives and are therefore subject to a great deal of scrutiny and criticism.

Whether or not lottery is a good idea, however, can depend on the expected utility of the winnings for the individual purchaser. If the entertainment value (or some other non-monetary benefit) is high enough, then the disutility of a monetary loss could be outweighed by the total utility obtained. This is a key reason why, even when the advertised jackpot amounts are much lower than the total amount paid in by ticket holders, lottery games are still popular.

The modern era of state lotteries began with New Hampshire in 1964, but since that time they have spread across the country and abroad. They are generally supported by broad and diverse constituencies, including convenience store operators; lottery suppliers (heavy contributions to the political campaigns of state legislators are commonly reported); teachers in states where lottery revenues are earmarked for education; and the general public at large, with 60% of adults reporting that they play. Lotteries are also widely criticized by critics for being addictive, encouraging irresponsible spending, and having a regressive impact on the poor. These concerns, in turn, have led to the evolution of many state policies aimed at controlling and managing lottery operations.