The Official Lottery

The official lottery is a state-controlled game that raises money for public services and other purposes. State laws establish the operation and accounting of lotteries; the distribution of lottery proceeds; time limits for claiming prizes; and activities that are considered illegal (such as selling tickets to minors). Most states also sponsor private games that raise funds for charities.

Americans spend an estimated $100 billion each year on the official lottery. But the lottery, both as a state and private game, has a rocky history in America. In the 1750s, for example, Benjamin Franklin ran a lottery to fund a militia to protect the city of Philadelphia against marauding French soldiers. This was despite Puritans’ opposition to gambling, which had already become widespread in the colonies. The Continental Congress even tried to use a lottery to raise money for the Revolutionary War, but it failed.

In modern times, state lotteries are a popular source of revenue and a common tool to promote tourism. But critics say the games have a regressive impact, with low-income Americans spending more of their budgets on them than wealthier Americans. Instant scratch-off games are especially popular with lower-income Americans, who believe they are a quick way to build wealth.

Although some states have banned the official lottery, others are expanding it and creating more games. For example, North Dakota’s official lottery app, Jackpocket, allows users to play a variety of state lotteries from their smartphones, tablets or computers. However, the app’s creators advise players to be responsible in their play and not spend more than they can afford. If gambling becomes a problem, the app provides information about resources and programs for help.