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A few years later, the same moral sensibilities that turned America against prostitution helped turn it against gambling in general, especially when Denmark Vesey won a local Charleston lottery and used his winnings to purchase his freedom from slavery. A combination of religious and moral distaste, corruption, and the fear that lotteries would be used to fund gambling addiction and slave rebellion started to turn public opinion against state-run lotteries in the 1800s, Matheson says.

Those attitudes started to change in the 1960s, when states’ need for revenue began to clash with an inability to raise taxes or cut services. Cohen notes that early America was a country “defined politically by an aversion to taxation,” so lotteries seemed like budgetary miracles, a way for states to maintain existing services without hiking taxes—an option that would be highly unpopular with voters.

And so, starting in 1964, a handful of states began to hold regular state-run lotteries, mostly in the Northeast and the Rust Belt, where there were bigger social safety nets that might need some extra cash. These politicians believed that, if the lottery was successful enough to raise the money they needed, it might eventually eliminate the need for taxes altogether.