In the immediate post-World War II period, when states were looking for a way to expand their social safety nets without heavy burdens on the middle and working classes, they adopted lotteries as a relatively painless source of revenue. But as these lotteries have evolved over time, they have come to be seen as little more than a source of “taxes without representation.” Lottery officials and supporters are in a position similar to that of the villagers in the story who are attached to their shabby black box that’s so old and worn that it is almost completely empty.
Traditionally, state lotteries operated much like traditional raffles, with the public purchasing tickets for an event that would take place weeks or months in the future. But innovations in the 1970s transformed lottery operations. These new games were often instant games in the form of scratch-off tickets. These games typically offered lower prize amounts and higher odds of winning, resulting in rapid increases in revenues.
These new innovations also gave rise to an unfortunate side effect: lotteries were increasingly being used for less and less worthy projects. The abuses bolstered those who were opposed to lotteries and weakened the arguments of those who defended them.
It is important to note that the amount of money available for prizes in a lottery is not predetermined; it is the result of all revenues after the costs of prize promotions, taxes and other expenses have been deducted from the pool. The prize pool is then divided up among a variety of different prize categories. The lion’s share of the total prize money is usually awarded as a single top prize, with smaller prizes awarded in various other ways.