The History of the Lottery


The lottery is a form of gambling that involves the drawing of numbers at random for a prize. Some governments outlaw it, while others endorse it and organize national or state lotteries. In the United States, Powerball is the most popular national lottery game. It requires players to guess a series of six numbers from one through fifty-nine, and the odds are shockingly low.

Those who win the jackpot are often left with enormous tax bills and are generally not well prepared for handling such an amount of money, according to research. Moreover, a recent study found that Americans spend more than $80 billion per year on lotteries, and that this money could be better spent on things like saving for an emergency fund or paying off credit card debt.

In his article, Cohen begins by nodding to the early history of lotteries, but he mainly focuses on their modern incarnation, which started in 1964 with New Hampshire’s approval of the first state-run lottery. He argues that the modern lottery began to gain in popularity during America’s late-twentieth century tax revolt, when growing awareness of all the money to be made by gambling collided with a crisis in state funding.

In colonial America, for example, lotteries played a key role in financing private and public projects—roads, libraries, colleges, churches, canals, and fortifications, to name just a few. In addition, the Continental Congress used a lottery to raise funds for the Revolutionary War.