Official lottery is a way for governments to raise money through gambling. It’s not just any gambling, though; it’s specifically a game of chance that involves purchasing tickets for small prizes. Lotteries can involve a single number or multiple numbers, and some can even have a jackpot.
The basic elements of a lottery are fairly simple: there must be some way to record the identities and amounts staked by bettors, and a mechanism for collecting and pooling all of those stakes into a common fund for the drawing. Typically, each bettor purchases a ticket with his name and a set of numbered symbols or other symbols on it that will be used in the drawing. The ticket is then deposited with the lottery organization to be shuffled and selected, and bettors may later determine whether or not they’re among the winners.
In early America, Cohen explains, state lotteries were a popular source of revenue for everything from civil defense to public works projects. But critics argued that the money raised was essentially a hidden tax on the people, and some devout Protestants went so far as to call for a total ban on gambling.
But as time went by, the popularity of gambling waned and state budgets began to suffer. With inflation and the cost of war soaring, many states found themselves in financial crisis; they could either increase taxes or cut services, and both options were unpopular with voters. In the nineteenth century, a combination of religious and moral sensitivities as well as a growing awareness of the corruption of organized crime started to turn Americans against lottery games in general.