Government’s Role in Promoting and Managing the Lottery


The lottery is a form of gambling that involves drawing numbers at random for a prize. Some governments outlaw it, while others endorse it and organize state or national lotteries. Some even offer keno or video poker as a way to supplement their lottery revenue. However, the popularity of lotteries has also raised questions about government’s role in promoting and managing an activity that it profits from.

It is a simple fact that there is an inextricable human impulse to gamble. The promise of instant riches is a potent allure, especially in an era of inequality and limited social mobility. But the question is whether government at any level should be in the business of promoting this vice, particularly given that lotteries generate only a small fraction of government revenue.

The earliest lottery games were conducted for public works projects, including paving streets and building wharves. During the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Franklin sponsored a lottery to raise funds for cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British. Alexander Hamilton wrote that “Everybody… will be willing to hazard a trifling sum for the hope of considerable gain.” Despite these warnings, the lottery has become a popular pastime in America. Today, it continues to play a key role in fundraising for local and state agencies, schools, hospitals, and community projects. Some states also use the lottery to fund higher education and medical research. Modern lotteries are governed by strict rules and regulations to prevent manipulation, fraud, and corruption. These safeguards include independent auditing of the drawing process, tamper-evident seals, and surveillance cameras. They also require training and background checks for all employees. Many lottery games also feature fixed prizes and a force majeure clause that protects the parties from non-performance in the event of natural disaster or other extraordinary, unforeseeable events.