What is an Official Lottery?

An official lottery is a state-regulated, legal gambling game in which people purchase tickets to win prizes. States set the rules for the operation and accounting of the games, the distribution of proceeds and time limits for claiming prizes. State laws also address activities that are considered illegal, such as selling tickets to minors.

Many of these games are based on the principle of chance, and as such have long been popular in the United States. They are often criticized by devout Protestants, who consider state-sanctioned lotteries to be morally unconscionable. In contrast, Catholics have overwhelmingly supported the legalization of lotteries and regularly gamble in other forms of gaming, such as bingo.

In the early American colonies, lotteries provided a source of public funds for everything from town fortifications to charity and education. Some towns even used the profits to help pay for the Revolutionary War. In some cases, a ticket cost ten shillings, a substantial sum in that era. Lottery opponents hailed from both sides of the political aisle and all walks of life, but they were largely devout Protestants who felt that numbers games were immoral and unseemly.

Be wary of any person who claims to be a lottery or sweepstakes official and asks you for money or personal information over the phone, through email or in person. Legitimate lottery officials never contact consumers in this manner. Similarly, you should never disclose your personal banking information, such as your check routing number or credit card number to anyone who calls and claims to be a lottery official.