Life is a Lottery

A gambling game or method of raising money in which a large number of tickets are sold and a drawing is held for prizes. It may also refer to something whose result appears to be determined by chance:Life is a lottery.

Lottery games are widely popular, with a substantial portion of the public reporting that they play them at least occasionally. They are also extremely profitable for state governments, and they have become a major source of funding for public purposes. Many of the nation’s colleges and universities, for example, owe their origins to lottery funds.

In addition, lottery revenues have the advantage of being earmarked for specific purposes (such as education), which enables legislators to reduce appropriations from their general funds and thus free up more money for other programs. In practice, however, this earmarking often does not work as intended. Critics charge that the earmarked revenue simply allows the legislature to lower its appropriations from the general fund for other purposes by the same amount, and that any savings are largely offset by lottery advertising expenditures and the cost of organizing and running the lottery.

A major issue is whether lotteries are an appropriate function for state government. By promoting gambling and encouraging people to spend their money on the chance of winning huge sums, they divert money that could otherwise be used for more important government activities. Even if the total amounts won are small, lottery players as a group contribute billions in foregone savings that could have gone to help finance their retirement or pay their children’s college tuition.