Lottery has long been a popular form of gambling. Public lotteries began in the Low Countries in the fifteenth century as a way of raising money for town fortifications and charity for the poor. Privately organized lotteries were common in England and the United States as a way to sell products or property for more money than would be possible through a regular sale. These lotteries also helped to fund the creation of many American colleges, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, King’s College (now Columbia), and William and Mary.
As Cohen points out, the lottery became a big business after World War II, as state governments, faced with inflation and the cost of the Vietnam War, found that the old arrangement, under which they could expand their social safety net without imposing especially onerous taxes on middle class and working-class voters, was coming to an end. And with more and more people entering the workforce, it was becoming increasingly difficult for states to balance their budgets.
So the states started to look for ways to increase their revenue that would not rile an anti-tax electorate. And that’s when they started to turn to the lottery, a source of revenue that they could promote as “not a tax but a fun and easy way to support a government service.”
It was a strategy that won New Hampshire the first modern state-run lottery in 1964; thirteen more followed in the next three years. And as a result, state lotteries have remained hugely popular to this day. But there are a few things you should keep in mind before you start playing. First, don’t overspend. Second, always check out the rules before you buy a ticket. And lastly, never give up on your dream of winning the jackpot.