New York’s Official Lottery

The state Lottery will keep lottery winners’ identities private if they choose to do so. But they will have to pay taxes on their winnings, undergo a background check and complete paperwork so the state knows who they are. This allows New York to remain competitive with other states that allow lottery winners to stay anonymous.

The first modern government-run lottery was established in Puerto Rico in 1934, followed by the New Hampshire Lottery in 1964. Today, US state lotteries bring in an average of about one percent of a state’s revenue each year. That’s not insignificant, but it doesn’t come close to addressing the state’s budgetary needs. And because it’s a regressive tax, it primarily takes money from the poorest residents.

Lottery promoters argue that the lottery is good for the public because it’s a fun and harmless way to support a specific service that the state cares about, whether education or elder care or something else. But they never put that in the context of the tiny percentage of the overall state budget that lottery profits contribute. And they don’t mention that a lot of people who buy tickets become addicted to gambling and end up relying on it for financial stability or even survival.

In one notorious case, Chicago businessman Urooj Khan was found dead of cyanide poisoning just weeks after winning $1 million in the lottery. Officials attributed his death to natural causes at first, but at his family’s prodding, they reopened the investigation and discovered that he’d been poisoned with cyanide.