Official lottery is a procedure of distributing something (usually money or prizes) by lot. It is one of the most common forms of gambling, though it has also been used for military conscription and commercial promotions in which property is distributed to customers through a random process. It is also the basis for certain civil rights protections and is a component of some state court systems, whereby venires are drawn to determine which people will serve on a jury.
In the United States, there is no single national lottery; each jurisdiction conducts its own. However, several consortiums of state lotteries offer games with a larger geographic footprint that carry bigger jackpots than those offered by individual states. The two largest such games, Powerball and Mega Millions, are offered in nearly all participating states.
While state-sanctioned lotteries grew in popularity, they generated strong opposition from devout Protestants who viewed them as morally unconscionable. Their critics argued that government-sanctioned gambling was not only immoral, but it deprived states of valuable tax revenue that could be put to more constructive purposes.
Lottery opponents also pointed to endemic corruption and inefficiency. In the early 19th century, for example, the Louisiana Lottery Company was accused of profiting from illegal ticket smuggling and other corrupt activities that eventually led to the company’s prohibition in 1895. This issue of crookedness helped solidify the argument against state-sanctioned lotteries. Nevertheless, private number games continued to thrive in the midst of these growing aversions to gambling.