The official lottery is run by a state and has laws that govern the games, how winners are selected and what happens to the money. The laws vary by state, but generally include a set of rules about who can participate, how prizes are awarded and whether certain activities are considered illegal. Some states also prohibit the sale of lottery tickets to minors, and if a person is found to have sold them, he or she can be fined.
There are many reasons why people choose to play the lottery, but one is that they simply like to gamble. It’s a human impulse, and it’s why we see so many billboards on the side of the highway advertising a big jackpot.
In a time when governments need revenue, lotteries are a quick way to raise cash. They are a “budgetary miracle,” as Cohen writes, allowing states to make money seem magically appear out of thin air without raising taxes. They are, as a result, “the perfect tool for politicians facing a hostile public that’s weary of paying higher sales or income taxes and unwilling to contemplate cuts to essential services.”
Super-sized jackpots drive lotteries, but they can also be misleading. The money won by a single ticket only represents a small percentage of the total prize pool. A winning ticket holder only keeps a fraction of the prize and pays out most of it to investors who bought into the lottery with him or her. The remainder goes to the state, and a large portion of that is spent on marketing and commissions.