Official lottery is an activity that is operated by state governments to generate funds for various purposes. Each state has its own laws that govern how lotteries are run and the way they operate. These laws also regulate things like the time limits for claiming prizes, whether people can sell tickets over the Internet and other important aspects of the process.
The first state-sponsored lotteries were launched in the mid-twentieth century. They came at a time when America was short on revenue and long on need for public works. It was also, Cohen points out, “defined politically by an aversion to taxation.”
Lottery proponents argued that states could raise enough money through gambling to meet their needs, and it would be a more ethical and less-disruptive way to fund government than direct taxes. But critics of the lottery argued that it was morally wrong, and they were vociferous in their opposition to public-sanctioned gambling games. They hailed from all sides of the political spectrum and from different religious faiths, including devout Protestants who regarded lotteries as dishonor to God.
Nevertheless, lotteries continued to grow in popularity. They dangled the promise of instant riches, and they appealed to an inextricable human impulse to gamble. They also benefited from the nation’s late-twentieth-century tax revolt. As more and more states adopted them, they became a major source of income for the state government. By some estimates, the national lottery has raised $502 billion since 1964.