Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lotteries : Are You Being Cheated ?

Lotteries have thrived worldwide for centuries. The kings of England allowed the American colonies to use lotteries to raise money in the 1600s.In the 1700s, lotteries helped finance the American Revolution. State-run lotteries continued well into the 1800s. Then, party because of fraud and corruption, they ended, not to be resumed until the 1960s.

Are lotteries harmless? Let's take a look at U.S. lotteries as indicative of what lotteries do to society. In 1963, the state of New Hampshire approved a lottery to raise money for education. New York state approved a lottery in 1966. The New Hampshire lottery had only two drawings a year; New York's only 12. But there was a very low chance of winning, and little excitement in playing. The lotteries didn't make as much profit as the states had hoped for.

Rapid Growth
Then in the 1970s some states introduced more appealing elements. New Jersey in 1970 authorized cheaper tickets and weekly drawings. Public participation increased more than 500 percent. The New Jersey lottery continued to modify its games to increase participation. The first million-dollar prize was in 1971. Daily drawings began in Massachusetts in 1974. The instant prizes encouraged winners to buy more tickets. From 1975 players could pick their own numbers. These changes gave the lotteries major publicity. Interest rose. In the '80s, multimillion-dollar awards "have stimulated unprecedented ticket sales and made State lotteries tremendously appealing to persons willing to gamble against astronomical odds in the hope of winning a fortune".

In 1988, a total of 29 states' lotteries took in more than $ 15 billion. Fifteen percent of this was used in administration and advertising; 37 percent was given to the government. Less than half was given back as prize money. Lotteries have become a source of government money, creating a possible conflict of interest: Should the government help the people, or encourage them to lose a portion of their money?

Some have claimed that lotteries profit from people who would gamble anyway. This may have been true of the low-key, low-frequency, low-interest lotteries of the 1960s, but not of the heavily advertised lotteries today. Profits are often earmarked for a worthy cause, such as education. But not everyone agrees. Bill Honig, California's superintendent of public schools, says the schools would be better off without the lottery. Though lottery profits are only a small percentage of the school budgets, the schools are becoming more dependent on this unstable source of money.

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