The Official Lottery

Official lottery is a form of gambling that is legalized in many states and used for raising revenue. Lotteries are governed by state laws that regulate the operation and accounting of games; prizes; time limits for claiming prizes; and activities considered illegal (such as selling to minors). In addition, some states operate a single national lottery while others belong to consortiums that jointly offer games with larger geographic footprints.

Despite their low chances of winning, most people still buy tickets. The reason is simple: people just plain like to gamble. Lotteries capitalize on this inextricable human impulse by advertising the size of their jackpots. But the hype about jackpots has a dark side, and critics say state-run lotteries are creating new generations of gamblers.

The first state-sponsored lotteries were established to raise money for colonial ventures chartered by King Charles, including Jamestown, the first permanent settlement in America. Later, they were used to fund a wide range of public and private endeavors, including churches, libraries and some of the country’s first and most prestigious universities.

In the 1800s, state-sponsored lotteries came under fire on moral religious grounds and various scandals. By the mid-20th century, they had acquired a reputation for sleaze and corruption and were banned in many states. But a thriving industry of illegal lotteries prospered.