How the Lottery Becomes a Cultural Obsession

The lottery is a government-run form of gambling where you have a chance to win a prize, usually money. You can buy tickets in stores and online, choosing from numbers between one and 59. The winning numbers are drawn at random and the ticket holder receives the prize, which is generally a large sum of cash. People spend billions of dollars on lottery tickets each year. Many consider it a low-risk way to try and get rich. In the article, Cohen describes how the lottery became a cultural obsession during a period in which America’s prosperity receded. Jobs were lost, incomes fell, health-care costs rose, and the old promise that education and hard work would guarantee you a good life stopped working for most people.

As a result, people started spending more and more on lottery tickets. As the jackpots rose, so did publicity, which in turn drove sales. As the jackpot grew to enormous, newsworthy amounts, the lottery system began to employ tactics like making it harder to win to keep the prizes growing even faster.

Lottery players contribute to the government’s bottom line, but they do so in ways that are often difficult for them to understand. For example, they contribute to the lottery by foregoing money they could otherwise be saving for retirement or college tuition. They also pay for the lottery’s overhead, which includes commissions to the retailers and its employees, as well as state-level expenses such as infrastructure projects, support centers for gambling addiction, and police force.