The Official Lottery

Official lottery is a form of gambling that is regulated by government or by a private organization and conducted according to specific rules. Generally, lottery proceeds are used to support public works or charitable causes. It is an important source of income in many countries, including most African and Middle Eastern states, nearly all European and Latin American nations, Australia, Japan, and several countries on the Asian mainland. In the United States, state lotteries account for about one percent of total state revenue.

The history of lottery as a public game dates back centuries. In the fourteen-hundreds, it was common in Europe to help finance towns and to provide charity for the poor. It made its way to America with the Virginia Company of London, which authorized a lottery in 1612 to help finance ships to its Jamestown colony in what would become the United States.

In early America, lotteries were popular, despite Puritan objections to gambling as a moral deviance and a “door and window to worse sins.” Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were financed in part by them, and the Continental Congress attempted to use a lottery to fund the Revolutionary War.

Today, lottery money subsidizes education and other public services in the U.S., although there is still much debate about whether that is a good thing. But after years of noisy campaigning and decades of heavy promotion, the public wildly overestimates the amount of state revenue that lotteries contribute to education.