Pennsylvania Lottery Official App

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The earliest records of lottery-type games come from keno slips found in the Chinese Han dynasty (205 and 187 BC) and from a reference to a “drawing of wood” in the Book of Songs (2nd millennium BC). These early lotteries involved drawing lots to determine a prize. More recently, a number of states have started to use lottery revenues as a way to pay for public services and programs. Some even apply their lottery profits to fund sports stadium construction and operation.

As state governments began to face funding crises in the late-twentieth century, Cohen argues, they searched around for a solution that would allow them to maintain their social safety net without raising taxes and thus enraging voters. For many politicians, the lottery looked like a budget miracle: it could bring in vast sums of money without the state ever having to raise a dime in taxes.

Yet critics raised concerns about both the morality of government-sponsored gambling and the amount of money that states stood to gain. Devout Protestants, in particular, reacted with outrage to the idea of public money being used for numbers games. Yet despite these objections, state after state approved lotteries, and in a geographical pattern that Cohen describes, each new lottery quickly inspired the states around it to do the same.