The drawing of lots to determine ownership and other rights has a long record in human history—it’s even recorded in the Bible. But lotteries that dish out prizes to paying participants have a more recent origin. They began in the early modern era as a way to raise money for things like towns, wars, colleges, and public-works projects. But the lottery’s rapid growth has generated a series of new problems.

One is the issue of over-sized jackpots. Such prizes draw a huge audience of people because they appear on the news and in popular culture, but they can also cause a big drop in ticket sales after the initial wave of interest. Another problem is corruption. Lottery organizers sometimes sell tickets and abscond with the proceeds without awarding prizes. This problem is particularly acute in states where the number of participating lotteries exceeds the capacity of state regulators to oversee them all.

A third issue is the increasing prominence of online gambling. This is especially true in the United States, where online lottery sites have become increasingly popular and are widely considered to be a threat to traditional lotteries. In addition, there is a growing sense of moral and religious distaste for any gambling activity. This has turned the tide against lotteries, which are already waning in popularity.