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State-run lotteries began to appear in the immediate post-World War II period, when states that had previously been able to expand their social safety nets without especially onerous taxes were finding that it was getting harder and harder to balance budgets. Inflation, the cost of the Vietnam War, and a growing sense of inequality made it increasingly difficult to pay for public services without raising taxes or cutting programs—two options that were highly unpopular with voters. In that environment, a lottery seemed like the perfect solution: a way to raise money that wouldn’t inflame voters’ antipathy to taxation. The fact that it would also create winners did not hurt either, because winning the lottery felt like a meritocratic opportunity, an improbable but possible path to prosperity.