An official lottery is a state-run gambling game that involves chance. In most states, the money from the lottery is used to fund public services like education or local government.
The official lottery has a long history in the United States. Its origins go back to the early colonial era, when the United States’ 13 colonies were financed partially by lotteries.
In the modern era, state-run lotteries in the US have been a major source of revenue for government. They are regressive, meaning lower-income groups spend more on lottery tickets than higher-income groups.
Despite the low odds of winning, Americans continue to buy lottery tickets. And while some states use their lottery proceeds to support public education, others have a more controversial agenda.
Research shows that state-run lotteries target low income communities at a higher rate than wealthy ones, creating inequities that affect poor people and their families. Those communities are disproportionately made up of Black and Latino people, according to studies conducted by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland.
The gambling industry is a complex web of rules and regulations, with government regulators and retailers responsible for protecting vulnerable populations. But the sex of regulation does not always protect against predatory practices that target low-income and marginalized people, says Richard Fong, an assistant professor at the School of Social Work at Harvard University who specializes in gambling disorders.