The lottery is a game where people pay a small sum of money for the chance to win a large prize by selecting numbers at random. The large prizes are usually cash, although some lotteries offer goods or services such as automobiles or vacations. Lotteries are typically run by state governments as a means of raising revenue for a variety of purposes.

In most states, the vast majority of players and revenue are from middle-income neighborhoods. But the data also suggests that people from low-income neighborhoods play the lottery less, even if they have enough income to participate. Moreover, research shows that lottery play decreases along with the level of formal education. This suggests that the state is not just catching up to a new reality, but may be running at cross-purposes with its own interests and those of its citizens.

There are some obvious problems with the way in which state lotteries have been set up and run. The most fundamental is that they promote gambling without putting much thought into how the money raised will be spent, and in what ways it might be better used elsewhere. Another problem is that the state has not figured out how to deal with the fact that it promotes a particular type of gambling that is not particularly popular among some groups of its citizens. It has instead tried to rely on two messages primarily. One is that you should play because the money helps the state in some specific way, and the other is that playing is a sort of civic duty or moral imperative.