Official lottery is a game of chance in which players pay for a ticket and have the opportunity to win a prize based on random selection. The prizes range from money to goods or services. A state may run a lottery or may allow private companies to conduct a lottery. In the former case, the government regulates the lottery and sets its rules. In the latter case, a private company runs the lottery, but the winner is determined by chance. The earliest state-sponsored lotteries were recorded in the Low Countries in the 15th century, where they raised funds to build walls and town fortifications.
The modern state-run lottery is relatively recent, having started in New Hampshire in 1964. During the nation’s late-twentieth-century tax revolt, it became popular for states to seek alternative ways to raise revenue without arousing anti-tax voters. The lottery became a common solution, especially in the Northeast and Rust Belt. As the lottery’s popularity grew, critics argued that it promoted gambling addiction and disproportionately impacted low-income communities. They also questioned whether it was ethical for governments to promote and finance a vice, particularly since their share of the national budget is small.
In the end, however, state legislatures embraced lotteries as a way to fund public services and infrastructure while keeping taxes down. Today, millions of Americans play the lottery each week. While many of those who play do so voluntarily, critics argue that lottery advertising and promotions encourage poorer Americans to believe that the only way to get rich is to buy a ticket.