Whether they play for the chance to win the big prize or simply to improve their lives, lottery players are making billions of dollars annually. Some players are clear-eyed about the odds of winning; others have elaborate, quote-unquote systems to pick their numbers and select their stores or times of day. These people know the odds are long, but they also believe that their luck is about to change.
State lotteries are often established when states are seeking revenue to provide for social safety net services that are not well funded by general taxation. Lottery proponents argue that the proceeds of the lottery will pay for a particular public good such as education, and that the lottery will help relieve pressure on state budgets by avoiding onerous tax increases or cuts to programs for working families.
Once a lottery is established, however, debate and criticism shifts to specific features of its operations such as the problem of compulsive gambling or its regressive impact on lower-income groups. In addition, critics allege that many lottery advertising techniques are deceptive, presenting misleading information about the odds of winning (especially when jackpot amounts are paid in annual installments, allowing inflation to dramatically reduce the present value), inflating the amount of money that could be won (by stating unrealistically high current values and by showing only the highest-tier prizes) and other factors.
Despite these arguments, studies have shown that the public is largely supportive of state lotteries. In fact, the lottery has been a major source of revenue in every state in which it is legalized.