Is it Appropriate for Government to Promote and Run a Gambling Business?

The casting of lots to decide fates and distribute prizes has a long record in human history. It is attested to in the Bible and by a range of ancient authorities, from Moses’ census of Israel to Roman Emperor Nero’s distribution of property and slaves. The lottery is a form of gambling, and as such has generated a variety of criticisms, including its association with compulsive gamblers and the alleged regressive impact on low-income communities. Moreover, as state lotteries are operated as businesses that must maximize revenues, their marketing necessarily is focused on persuading specific groups of people to spend more money on tickets. Given the existence of these concerns, is it appropriate for government at any level to promote and run a business that profits from gambling?

The answer depends on whether we are talking about a lottery for units in a subsidized housing block or a lottery to determine kindergarten placements. Generally, state-sponsored lotteries offer very large prizes and rely on the psychology of addiction to keep players coming back for more. This isn’t a bad thing, but it also raises questions about the extent to which state governments should be in the business of profiting from addictive activities.

You May Also Like

More From Author