Public Good Causes and the Lottery


Lotteries are a popular way to raise funds for charitable causes. Each state donates a percentage of the revenue generated by the lottery to these causes. In the United States, lottery funding began in the 1600s, when King James I of England introduced a lottery for the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. During the 1700s, public and private organizations used lotteries to raise money for towns, wars, public-works projects, and educational institutions.

Many opponents of the lottery use economic arguments to justify their position. Because lotteries only contribute a small portion of a state’s total tax revenues, the impact of lotteries on state budgets is limited. Furthermore, many lottery opponents argue that the lottery is unfairly targeting people with low incomes, who can’t afford to gamble.

The cost of a lottery ticket is much higher than the expected gain. As a result, lottery purchases are not rational if people are maximizing their utility. However, lottery purchases can be explained by expected utility maximization models, which allow people to adjust their utility functions to account for risk-taking behavior. In some cases, people choose lottery purchases because they are motivated by the fantasy of winning big.

Lottery sales have steadily increased throughout the years, with Americans wagering nearly $44 billion in the fiscal year 2003. Although the financial benefits of lottery play have been criticized, the money collected from these games is used for public good causes.