The official lottery is a gambling type of raffle in which people purchase chances in a drawing for money or other prizes. The exact rules vary depending on the country in which it is conducted, but generally all participating people must pay a consideration for the chance to win. A modern example is the US state-run lottery.
Lotteries are popular in many countries and have a long history. In 1616, the Virginia Company of London held a lottery to raise money for its colonial venture chartered by King Charles II, and in the early United States, lotteries were used to fund public buildings, churches and even some of America’s first and most prestigious universities. Today, state-run lotteries provide revenue for education and other public purposes.
Across the US, 45 states and territories offer state-run lotteries, including New York’s Take5 lottery, where jackpot prizes can reach tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, there are private lotteries run by private companies and casinos.
In a nutshell, the idea behind state-run lotteries is that it captures the inexorable human impulse to gamble and makes it more affordable for many people. Unfortunately, it also creates more gamblers and, in doing so, obscures the regressivity of the lottery.
There is a history behind the reasons why states decided to enact lotteries, and it has to do with needs for revenue that became more urgent in the post-World War II period. But there is another story, too, and it has to do with the belief that gambling is inevitable and that a government might as well make money off it rather than raising taxes.