Not so long ago, most people conceded that gambling was a vice to be avoided. Today, state-sponsored lotteries in the United States have significantly reduced the stigma once associated with gambling. Only nine states do not play the lottery.
One way state governments advance the lottery is to convince voters that a percentage of ticket-sale proceeds will go to a worthy cause—like education. In reality, usually nothing is added to the specific budget. Instead, the government simply allocates less to that area from its overall budget. Thus spending levels stay the same. Most states, like the federal government, run budget deficits. Lottery proceeds to state coffers may reduce the gap between what is taken in and what is spent overall, but they usually don’t increase budget for a specific cause.
A study on this subject concludes: “[C]itizens should recognize that claims that lotteries will improve education funding are likely to be as misleading as their odds of winning those lotteries are meager” (State and Local Government Review, Winter 1997).
However, since most states now depend on lottery income, we can expect a continuation of public-relations ploys and advertising propaganda designed to boost lottery participation.