The Truth About the Lottery

Lottery is a popular pastime with billions of dollars being spent on tickets every week. In the end though, winning is mostly a matter of luck and people should be aware that there is a much higher probability of losing than winning. This is a great video to use for kids & teens or as part of a financial literacy curriculum.

The casting of lots to decide fates and destinies has a long record in human history, dating at least as far back as the fourteenth century in the Low Countries, where public lotteries helped finance town fortifications, build towns, and distribute charity to the poor. It also played an important role in the early settlement of America, where Benjamin Franklin used a lottery to raise funds for cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British. Lotteries later financed public works projects and the construction of Harvard and Yale. George Washington even sponsored a lottery to alleviate crushing debts and ease his personal finances.

Cohen’s analysis focuses largely on the modern American lottery, which has gained enormous popularity since the nineteen-sixties as rising awareness of the potential riches to be won in the gambling business collided with state budget crises, driven by inflation and soaring health-care costs. As a result, state governments found that it was impossible to balance their budgets without raising taxes or cutting services, both of which would have enormous unpopularity with voters. In this environment, it is no wonder that a growing number of states adopted a lottery.