Public Administration and the Lottery

Throughout history, drawing lots to distribute property and other rights has become one of the most common forms of public administration. In modern times, the lottery has been a popular form of state government funding. State lotteries have met with remarkably uniform approval by voters and wide acceptance by politicians. However, the way they are structured and operated has differed considerably.

In general, the lottery is run like a business and heavily promoted to attract specific constituencies: convenience store owners (who are rewarded with substantial advertising fees); lottery suppliers (heavy contributions to state political campaigns are frequently reported); teachers (in states where revenues are earmarked for education); state legislators (who quickly become accustomed to a steady flow of extra revenue); etc. These special interests tend to take precedence over the overall public welfare.

Despite this, the operation of a lottery is not without its problems. A major concern is that, because of the emphasis on attracting particular groups, state lotteries are often operated at cross-purposes with the general public interest. In addition, the promotion of gambling and its attendant problems — such as addiction, regressive impacts on low-income groups, etc. — are rarely taken into account in the development and evolution of state lotteries.