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The Fascinating Story of the Lottery in America in 21 Snappy Bites

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Monday, October 24, 2022


The story and history of the lottery in the US is certainly fascinating and tells us a lot about why it appeals to so many. The New Yorker magazine recently wrote about historian Jonathan D. Cohen's 2022 book "For a Dollar and a Dream: State Lotteries in Modern America". Below are 21 interesting snippets from the book and magazine article.  

-----Half of Americans buy a lottery ticket at least once annually, 25% at least one monthly. 

-----Americans spend ninety-one billion dollars annually on lottery tickets.  

-----Both coffee and smart phones by themselves don't take in as much as lotteries.   

-----The big question - should governments, that are responsible for citizen's welfare, be in the business of producing and profiting from them? 

-----In England in the 16th century, the lottery winner not only won cash, but a get-out-of-jail-free card for any crime except murder, treason and piracy.  

-----Famous universities like Harvard, Yale and Princeton, in their early years, were financed in part by lotteries. 

-----Thomas Jefferson advocated for lotteries, asserting that they were no riskier than farming.  

-----A black slave, Denmark Vesey, bought his freedom after winning the South Carolina lottery and went on to help free other slaves. 

-----Between 1833 and 1880, every state except Louisiana banned all lotteries.  

-----In the 1950's Luther Theophilus Powell won $10,000 and bought a house in Queens for him and his family, which included young Colin.  

-----Prominent organized crime gangs like the late Whitey Bulger's crew got their start by "running numbers" in Somerville, just outside of Boston. 

-----Throughout the 1900's devout Protestants considered government-sanctioned lotteries as immoral, while most Catholics were 100% pro-lottery.  

-----In a nutshell, the main objections to lotteries are: Causing or furthering gambling addictions, draining income from the poor, giving many the idea that success does not have to involve hard work or merit, and encouraging states to acquire money at the expense of its most vulnerable 

-----In 1964, New Hampshire became the first state to run lotteries in the modern era. 

-----The lottery ticket manufacturer Scientific Games debuted the first scratch-off ticket in Massachusetts in 1974.  

-----In the late seventies, Scientific Games successfully spent $2.4 million lobbying California voters to legalize lotteries.  

-----The New York Lotto, one of the nation's largest, current odds for winning the jackpot are one in forty-five million.  

-----The 1980s saw the rise of money worship: "The years in which lotto reshaped the national gambling scene were the years of deregulation and Reaganomics, the première of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” ....... Pastors were preaching the prosperity gospel; politicians were singing the praises of the unfettered free market .......... it was no longer taboo to collect a massive fortune; neither was it offensive to show it off. Wealth—not the prosperity of blue-collar workers but the fortunes of their bosses—became a means of reasserting the bounty of capitalism.” 

-----The promise that state government's lottery profits would be like a tax that would help with programs, turned out to be false, as state after state conceded the windfall added only about 1% to its tax base. Specifically claiming lottery income would aid veterans, or education, produced the same low, negligible percentages. 

-----Lottery players whose annual income is $50,000+ spend 1% of their income on tickets. Those making less than $30,000 spend 13% annually.  

-----Lottery sales increase when unemployment grows and poverty increases. 


Related Posts 

A Harvard Statistician’s Perspective on Playing the Lottery https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2019/04/a-harvard-statisticians-perspective-on.html 

10 Clever Ways Casinos Separate You from Your Money   http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2014/03/10-clever-ways-casinos-separate-you.html 

9 Basic Ways We Fool Ourselves Into Believing Things That Aren’t True  http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2018/04/9-basic-ways-we-fool-ourselves-into.html 

Photo: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/british-national-lottery-balls-tek-image.html 

Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.


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