Official lottery is a term used to describe a competition based on chance in which numbered tickets are sold and prizes awarded to holders of tickets drawn at random. Lotteries are typically public enterprises and are regulated by law. They raise money for a variety of purposes, including state programs, sports teams, and charities.
In the United States, more than 30 states operate a lottery or similar game, often under the supervision of a state commission or agency. The laws that govern lotteries set out the prizes available, how tickets can be purchased, and how winnings are to be paid. They also specify a range of other details, such as the time limit on claiming prizes after a drawing and the documents that winners must produce to demonstrate their eligibility for a prize.
A central argument for state-sponsored lotteries is that they are a more fair and efficient alternative to raising tax revenues. In contrast to the progressive taxes that are imposed on income, property, and sales, lottery revenues do not disproportionately burden different taxpayers in the same way. However, many critics argue that lotteries are still regressive: the evidence shows that poor and working class people spend far more of their income on tickets than wealthy people do. They also argue that the way lotteries are marketed makes low-income Americans believe that they can become wealthy quickly, when in reality it will only transfer wealth out of their communities.