The lottery is a big business and one that raises money for state governments. People across the country spend billions of dollars on tickets each year. But how much of that money really helps? And is it worth the moral trade-offs?

It’s a big question. For most people, there’s just something about a chance to win a lot of money that draws them to the game. States promote it by claiming that it’s a way to help save children and other worthy causes. But in reality, the money from lotteries is just a drop in the bucket for state governments. It’s not enough to fund a large portion of any social safety net, and it’s certainly not enough to make up for slashed taxes on the middle class or working class.

Lottery officials say that the money is used for education, roads and other public works projects. But the truth is that most of it goes to paying for advertising and prizes for winners. And a small percentage of it actually makes its way into the hands of poor and working-class people, who don’t have enough discretionary income to afford the tickets.

The earliest recorded signs of lotteries date back to keno slips that are believed to have been drawn during the Han Dynasty in China between 205 and 187 BC. The first modern government-run lotteries began in Puerto Rico in 1934, followed by New Hampshire in 1964. The lottery was a way for states to expand their services without burdening the middle and working classes with higher taxes. But that model eventually crumbled in the wake of inflation and rising debts.