A lottery is an arrangement in which one or more prizes are allocated to participants according to a process that relies entirely on chance. The most common example of a lottery is a prize drawn at random from those who participate in a sports event, but modern lotteries are also used for military conscription, commercial promotions in which property or services are given away, and the selection of jurors from lists of registered voters.
State governments adopt and run lotteries to raise money for a variety of purposes. They may be promoting an educational project, helping the poor, or enhancing the city’s recreational facilities. Many of the same concerns that surround other forms of gambling apply to state lotteries. Some of these concerns are legitimate, but others are based on flawed logic and misguided assumptions.
In addition, the public is frequently misled by the promotional campaigns of state lotteries. A typical advertisement tries to convince consumers that a specific type of game has an inextricable link to a particular public good, such as education or infrastructure. It fails to mention that the overall state budget is hardly affected by lottery revenues.
As a result, state officials have developed a deep dependency on “painless” lottery revenues and feel pressured to increase them whenever possible. This situation is a classic example of policymaking by fragmentation, in which authority is divided between the executive and legislative branches and then further fragmented within each branch. As a result, the general public welfare is seldom taken into account in the establishment and evolution of state lotteries.