Official Lottery

Official lottery is a form of gambling that involves the drawing of numbers for a prize. It is regulated by state and national laws and can be played only through state-approved agents or websites. Generally, state lottery rules prohibit individuals from buying or selling tickets across state lines for a fee. However, there are some exceptions such as charity bingo games and raffles.

In the beginning, states sought to legalize lotteries because they needed revenue. With inflation, population growth, and the cost of war on the rise in the nineteen sixties, balancing the budget became increasingly difficult for state governments. Raising taxes or cutting services were unpopular with voters, and the lottery offered the prospect of a quick infusion of cash without a public backlash.

Lottery opponents questioned both the ethics of funding public services through gambling and the amount of money states stood to gain. They hailed from both sides of the political spectrum and all walks of life; devout Protestants, for example, often viewed government-sanctioned lotteries as morally unconscionable. But they did not stop people from playing, and state lotteries became wildly popular.

By the nineteen eighties, states were relying on lotteries to fund everything from schools to roads to prisons. As a result, Cohen writes, the state lottery “became a kind of budget miracle, allowing politicians to maintain services and avoid a voter backlash without resorting to taxes.”