Lottery history dates back to ancient times. In the Old Testament, Moses is told to take a census of the people of Israel and divide the land by lot. The Roman emperors used lotteries to give property and slaves to their citizens. The ancient Greek word for lottery, apophoreta, means “that which is carried home.”
The United States operates lotteries in forty states and the District of Columbia. These monopolies are noncommercial and use the profits to fund government programs. As of August 2004, lottery sales in the U.S. were down in nine states, with Delaware having the steepest decline, at 6.8%. However, sales in Florida, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico increased substantially. In 2000, the lottery was legal in Texas, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia.
Financial lottery: The most common form of lottery is the financial lottery, in which players pay a small fee for a ticket and randomly pick numbers to match a pre-selected group of numbers. When enough of these numbers match, they win prizes. Depending on the state, financial lottery winners may choose to receive a lump sum payment or monthly payments over time. The latter option is more favorable for tax purposes, as most states tax lottery winnings.
In a national poll conducted in December 2003, the Gallup Organization found that only 49% of adults and 13% of teenagers had purchased a lottery ticket in the previous year. The poll also found that the American public approves of state lotteries for cash prizes, with 75% of adults and 82% of teenagers approving the practice. While lottery players may become addicted to it, the benefits are not worth it. The statistics show that lottery players are more likely to become dependent on the lottery than they are to make a difference in their lives.
A number of studies have shown that lottery gambling is more common among people of lower income. For example, a study conducted by the Vinson Institute of Government Studies at the University of Georgia found that African-Americans and people with lower levels of education are more likely to play the lottery than Caucasians. The researchers also found that the lottery proceeds in Georgia are spent on education programs that benefit both the rich and the poor. This is good news for the poor and the wealthy alike.
Among lottery players, 65 percent would support the continuation of a state lottery if proceeds were used for a specific cause. In contrast, a survey of respondents in states without a lottery showed that 66% of nonlottery participants said they would vote for it. Among respondents, the two largest problems with the lottery are lack of prize money and improper use of funds. Further, over half of respondents say that lottery proceeds should go towards research on problem gambling.