Play Official State Lottery games on your mobile device. Including Powerball, Mega Millions, and more. All games are real lottery tickets validated by a licensed retailer in your state. Play responsibly. Don’t play while crossing streets, operating motor vehicles or using chain saws.
Across America, state lotteries are a source of billions in revenue, and their profits help fund public services like education and welfare. But despite their popularity, lotteries have a long and troubled history. In his new book, For a Dollar and a Dream: State Lotteries in Modern America, the historian Jonathan Cohen looks back at the roots of these government-sponsored games.
The first lotteries were held in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when towns used their profits to build town fortifications. In England, the prize money was originally intended to benefit the poor and needy, a tradition that continued after colonization. In the seventeenth century, enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina, began to win local lotteries, which gave them the chance to purchase their freedom.
In the nineteen-sixties, as America’s prosperity faltered under a growing population and inflation, state governments found themselves struggling to balance budgets. Politicians faced the choice of raising taxes or cutting services, and both options were deeply unpopular with voters. Lotteries seemed to be the perfect solution: they would raise hundreds of millions of dollars, and supposedly without raising taxes.
Lotteries, however, are regressive, meaning lower-income Americans spend more of their income on tickets than higher-income ones. This is especially true for instant scratch-off games, which research shows appeal to low-income communities and often have worse odds of winning.