Official Lottery offers players a chance to win big prizes for very little money. Whether you choose to play traditional scratch-off tickets, instant games or video lottery terminals, chances are good that your ticket will contain a winning combination of numbers. But, like cigarettes or Snickers bars, lottery wins can be addictive. Lottery officials know this well, and aren’t shy about using every trick in the book to keep players coming back for more.
In recent years, the size of jackpots has become an important selling point. When prizes reach record-breaking levels, they generate headlines and free publicity that encourages even more people to buy tickets. But there’s a downside: The longer that top prizes go unclaimed, the less likely they are to be paid out in the future. To reduce this risk, states often limit the number of times a winner can claim their prize. In fact, a few states have banned the practice altogether.
Historically, lotteries have been used to fund everything from public works projects to wartime operations and church building. But in early America, a nation defined politically by an aversion to taxation, lottery critics argued that state-sponsored gambling was immoral and demeaning to the poor. Among these critics were devout Protestants, who viewed the practice as morally unconscionable.
While some critics questioned the ethics of promoting public services through gambling, others were concerned about the amount of revenue lottery advocates stood to gain from legalization. As Cohen writes, “Lottery sales increase as incomes fall, unemployment rises, and poverty rates climb.” Lottery promotions are geared to attract low-income audiences, and the game’s products are often advertised in neighborhoods that are disproportionately poor, black or Hispanic.
Lottery opponents also feared that a lottery would eat up state coffers without raising taxes. This concern was heightened in the late twentieth century, when the country experienced a tax revolt that led to the passage of Proposition 13, cutting property taxes by sixty per cent, and to a steady decline in lottery revenues. Lottery promoters shifted tactics, no longer arguing that a lottery would float most of a state’s budget but rather that it would pay for a specific line item, invariably one of the popular and nonpartisan government services—education, elder care, or public parks—that was not subsidized by other taxes.
If you are a Wisconsin resident and receive a call, email or letter from someone claiming to be a Lottery official, contact the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for more information about how to report these types of scams. You can find more consumer protection information on the Department’s website. Play responsibly and only use a licensed retailer to purchase lottery tickets.