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Gambling In The U.S. - Should The Government Support Lotteries?

Updated on March 21, 2013
Picture of lottery card
Picture of lottery card | Source

The question is lotteries or no lotteries? Based on findings, both state and local governments have increasingly turned to the lotteries as a means of closing the gaps between their tax receipts and expenditures. They are the largest source of government revenue from gambling. According to one source, in 1996 alone, $42.9 billion worth of tickets was sold.

The net revenue collected from lotteries alone for that year was $13.8 billion. Currently, lottery rank first among the various forms of gambling in terms of gross revenues.

Lotteries now operate in 37 states and the District of Columbia,and is the most widespread form of gambling in the U.S. It is believed to be the only form of commercial gambling which a majority of adults report having played, and the only form of gambling in the U.S. that is totally monopolized by the government. It has been said however, that few, if any states, have a coherent "gambling policy" or even a "lottery policy."

Research findings reveal that the lower income groups spend more than others on gambling, and therefore, also a higher percentage of their overall income. Some author on this subject matter argue that many poor people perceive gambling as a way out of financial hardship, however, with the odds being so low of winning a fortune, gambling for most people makes their situation worse.

Due to the present state of the economy, more people will be inclined to play the lottery. Presently, even at various workplaces across the nation, people are pooling money to increase the chance of winning the lottery. Some people are even driving from one state to another just to play the lottery.

Sometimes, out of sheer desperation, some people may even sacrifice essential items just to put a dollar or two aside to play the lottery. However, from an ethical standpoint, the question is, should the government support lotteries in the first place?

Lottery can be a bit controversial; some critics argue that it's morally unacceptable for states to sponsor gambling. They believe lottery generates compulsive gamblers who lead themselves and their families into dire poverty. They further argue that the lottery attract criminal elements and other undesirables. Others claim that lotteries give people the impression that mere luck and fate rather than education, hard work, and saving and investing are the only way they can become wealthy.

However, some of those arguing in support of the lottery, believe lotteries are preferable to taxes, because people participate voluntarily so this form of tax is involuntary, rather than compulsory. They feel that this one easy way to finance government services such as education, medical care, and welfare. Other defenders of lotteries argue that lotteries are competitive with illegal gambling and thus socially beneficial in reducing organized crimes.


Although several churches across the nation have allegedly accepted donations from winners of lotteries. There are some other churches and church bodies who don't condone lottery or gambling in general. For example, according to an article from the "Church Society" on gambling. "For a government to push a gambling agenda onto a nation is entirely contrary to God's purposes."

They believe gambling promotes greed and superstition and is responsible for many other unethical acts. The conclusion is, the question as to whether or not government should support lotteries will continue to spark some hot debates for decades to come!


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    • mackyi profile image

      I.W. McFarlane 6 years ago from Philadelphia

      I must agree with you that government will go to the extreme to raise money to offset budgets and hefty debts. I also agree with Molometer, that taxes were supposed to be a temporary measure, but instead, turned to be a permanent source of revenue. I was also informed,that Tolls(another means of indirect taxation)was meant to be temporary measure - to offset the cost of building bridges commuters have to cross on a daily basis. However,governments have seen this as an opportunity that they can continue to capitalize on. As a result, the prices of tolls kept rising.

      On the subject on lottery,because it's accounts for such a large chunk of the country's revenue, and the fact that people will always support it -- it's here to stay!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

      Unfortunately it is the nature of governments to chase money. It is a machine that is now out of out control, we can't get rid of them and even the people within them are controlled by the system itself. As Molometer pointed out, taxes were actually supposed to be a temporary thing and the government should never have been allowed to grow as big and powerful as it has. It is now the people serving the government, not the original idea of a government serving the people.

      Ah, but back to the lottery, unfortunately it is in peoples nature to gamble and clutch at straws when in a bad situation. I honestly believe if the lottery didn't exist, something would soon replace it.

    • mackyi profile image

      I.W. McFarlane 6 years ago from Philadelphia

      Thanks for your honest and positive comments! Considering the amount the government has been collecting each year form the sale of lottery tickets, lottery is extremely important to them. Thanks again, and thanks for the vote!

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      Voted up, useful, and interesting. Interesting article. If it can close our buget, I believe we should do it. I know there is always pros and cons associated with everything, but it really is a great idea. Cool article. Interesting facts about the church. You bring up a strong point.