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The American Lottery, as in other countries with state-run games, is a game of chance and, therefore, involves gambling. The money raised is used for a wide variety of public projects, from schools to parks. Some of the money is used to pay for jackpots, which can grow to inordinately large amounts. Whether those jackpots are “stupid” or not, they do drive sales and give the lottery a cachet that entices people to play.
Lottery winners can choose to receive their prizes as an annuity (payments over 29 years) or a lump sum. The annuity option is preferred by many winners, as it allows them to invest their winnings and reap an additional source of income.
The early history of the lottery in America is a tale of exigency, as states sought to find ways to finance the infrastructure they needed without incurring the wrath of an anti-tax electorate. Lotteries seemed a solution: they were “budgetary miracles, the chance for states to make revenue appear seemingly out of thin air,” as Cohen puts it. It was a particularly appealing solution for New Hampshire, which grew rich on the back of its gambling industry and had an especially fervent aversion to taxation. Its lawmakers decided to launch the first modern lottery in 1964, and 13 more followed in quick succession.