Fundraising Through the Lottery


The lottery is a gambling game where participants pay a small sum of money for the chance to win a large prize. It is not just a game, but also an instrument used to raise money for public and private purposes. It is a recurrent way to fund wars, build roads, and subsidize local militias. It has a long history, dating back to ancient times, when the drawing of lots was used to determine ownership or other rights. It was also popular in colonial America, where lotteries were used to help fund a variety of private and public ventures, including towns, schools, canals, bridges, and even wars.

In the United States, most state governments run their own lotteries. They are monopolies that do not allow other commercial lotteries to compete against them. Typically, state-run lotteries sell instant-win scratch-off tickets and games that require players to select numbers from 1 to 50. In addition to the funds that they raise for states, state lotteries also rely on two main messages to drive sales:

One is that playing the lottery is fun and exciting. This message obscures the regressivity of lottery participation and encourages people to play a little bit at a time. The other is that playing the lottery is a civic duty and a good thing to do for your community. This message is a bit deceptive because the percentage of lottery proceeds that go to state budgets is relatively low.