Submission Type

Presentation

Submission Title

Scientific Games and the Spread of State Lotteries

Session Title

Session 3-2-C: Lotteries

Location

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada

Start Date

30-5-2019 11:00 AM

End Date

30-5-2019 12:25 PM

Disciplines

Behavioral Economics | Business and Corporate Communications | Gaming Law | Other Education | Political History | Taxation | United States History

Abstract

In the early 1980s, lottery ticket company Scientific Games played a crucial role in facilitating the spread of legalized gambling in the United States. Though lotteries had ceased their expansion in the late 1970s, this presentation reveals how Scientific Games used the initiative process to pass lotteries in California, Oregon, Arizona, and three other states. Unlike its competitors, the company involved itself in the political process, using the promise of a new, non-tax source of revenue to convince voters to legalize lotteries. Economists and political scientists often look at lotteries as a case study of "policy diffusion," namely how policies spread from one state to another. Yet, scholars have missed the crucial role of Scientific Games as it sought to expand the market for its products. Based on previously unexamined archival sources and interviews with former company officials, this presentation offers new insight into the history of state lotteries, illustrating how Scientific Games became a dominant player in the gaming industry and how lotteries spread across the American commercial landscape.

Keywords

Lotteries, Scientific Games, Gaming Law, Taxation, US History, Lottery industry

Author Bio

Jonathan D. Cohen is a Ph.D Candidate in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia, a Visiting Fellow in the Harvard University History Department, and a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow. His dissertation, For a Dollar and a Dream, offers the first comprehensive, historical study of American state lotteries in nearly 30 years. He is the coeditor, with David G. Schwartz, of All In: The Spread of Gambling in Twentieth-Century United States (University of Nevada, 2018).

Funding Sources

I received funding from the Jefferson Scholars Foundation and American Council of Learned Societies. These funding bodies had no involvement in shaping my research in any way.

Comments

It was a pleasure to serve as chair for a lottery panel at the 2016 conference. I would be happy to do so again in 2019.

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May 30th, 11:00 AM May 30th, 12:25 PM

Scientific Games and the Spread of State Lotteries

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada

In the early 1980s, lottery ticket company Scientific Games played a crucial role in facilitating the spread of legalized gambling in the United States. Though lotteries had ceased their expansion in the late 1970s, this presentation reveals how Scientific Games used the initiative process to pass lotteries in California, Oregon, Arizona, and three other states. Unlike its competitors, the company involved itself in the political process, using the promise of a new, non-tax source of revenue to convince voters to legalize lotteries. Economists and political scientists often look at lotteries as a case study of "policy diffusion," namely how policies spread from one state to another. Yet, scholars have missed the crucial role of Scientific Games as it sought to expand the market for its products. Based on previously unexamined archival sources and interviews with former company officials, this presentation offers new insight into the history of state lotteries, illustrating how Scientific Games became a dominant player in the gaming industry and how lotteries spread across the American commercial landscape.