The Mystique of the Lottery


In order for a lottery to function, there must be a way to record the identity of bettors and the amounts staked by each. This may be done by a simple list, or by putting the bettors’ names on numbered tickets that are deposited for shuffling and selection in a drawing. Similarly, it must be possible to determine later whether a ticket was among the winners. In modern lotteries, this is usually done electronically.

In America, which Cohen describes as being “defined politically by an aversion to taxation,” the lottery became an appealing solution to state budget crises, allowing politicians to introduce new revenue sources without enraging voters. The first state-run lottery was approved in 1964, and it quickly spread across the nation, particularly in the Northeast and Rust Belt.

The idea of winning a large sum of money through lottery has always been a popular one. It has a kind of mystical allure, and, as the author points out, it also serves as a proxy for a broader dream of unimaginable wealth. This heightened fascination with the lottery has coincided, as Cohen notes, with an increasing sense of economic insecurity for working people. Income gaps have widened, pensions and job security have eroded, health-care costs are skyrocketing, and the long-standing American promise that hard work will lead to upward mobility has begun to seem more like an illusion than a reality.

While some numbers are more popular than others, each number has the same chance of being drawn as any other. For this reason, you should try to mix a variety of numbers, rather than picking a cluster or selecting numbers that end with the same digit. You can also improve your odds by purchasing more tickets.