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The lottery’s early proponents argued that it would fill state coffers without raising taxes, which were already sky-high for working Americans. This promise turned out to be a false one. In New Jersey, where the lottery began in 1964, proceeds came to thirty-three million dollars that first year—or about two per cent of the state budget. This is an awfully low amount to cover even a single line item, let alone all the expenses of running a modern economy.
Despite such gloomy figures, states continued to approve lotteries and to increase the prizes offered. But the public’s skepticism about these games intensified in the late nineteen-sixties, as a wave of tax revolts swept across the country. People wanted lower property, sales and income taxes, but they also did not want to see their government services cut.
At around this time, Cohen points out, a growing awareness of all the crookedness in gambling started to turn people against the game. This was partially religious and moral distaste, he says—and partly the fact that people could win big sums in the lottery and use it to avoid paying taxes, or even to buy their way out of jail for a variety of crimes, including murder and treason. This distaste for gambling, he argues, helped give rise to a movement to ban the lottery.