The Benefits of Playing the Lottery

The lottery originated in colonial America, when the New York lottery introduced the concept. The first year’s profits were $53.6 million, which enticed residents in neighboring states to purchase tickets and participate in the game. By the end of the decade, twelve other states had adopted lotteries, making the lottery a widely popular activity throughout the Northeast. The New York lottery was able to fund public projects without raising taxes and was also able to attract members of the Catholic community, who were generally tolerable of gambling activities.


Today, lottery participation rates are high. In the United States, over 50 percent of adults play the lottery regularly, including those who are in the middle class. The most common demographics to play the lottery are high school-educated men in middle-class neighborhoods. A recent survey of Lottery players found that those from low-income communities are more likely to purchase a ticket than those from higher-income communities. The NGISC report did not provide any proof that lotteries targeted poor residents. Marketing to poor people would be politically and economically inadvisable. In addition, it is not common for people to buy their tickets from the same neighborhood as they live. Consequently, the areas associated with low-income residents are also frequented by higher-income shoppers and workers.

The lottery has also boosted state revenues, with 17 percent of lottery players playing more than once a week. About 13 percent of people play the lottery every day, while the remaining 48 percent play one to three times per month. The average player is a high-school-educated middle-aged man in the middle class. The research supports this view, and shows that lotteries can have significant positive effects on society. And, unlike other forms of gambling, the benefits of the lottery do not depend on the individual’s income or race.