The Official Lottery

The official lottery is the official government-sponsored gambling game that raises money for a specific purpose, often education. State laws govern how the lottery is operated and how the proceeds are distributed. Some states have prohibited the sale of tickets to minors, and all states require that winning numbers be verified by a independent agency to ensure accuracy. New York’s Lottery was established in 1967 and has raised billions in revenue for education.

In the early American colonies, lottery play was a common way of financing everything from civil defense to public works. But even then, lottery opponents arose from all political corners and all walks of life. Devout Protestants, for example, regarded it as morally unconscionable that government could float its budget on gambling.

Nevertheless, lottery revenues continued to grow, in large part because super-sized jackpots attract media attention and drive ticket sales. And as the national economy slowed down in the nineteen-sixties, raising taxes or cutting services proved extremely difficult for many states.

As a result, state lotteries became a crucial source of funds for education and other social services. Today, they remain a popular funding method, especially in states that have no income tax. Nonetheless, critics say that lotteries prey on poor people by encouraging them to gamble with money that they cannot afford to lose. They are paying into a system that is mathematically stacked against them. This is particularly troubling for Black and Latino players, who are exposed to the most lottery advertising.