The official lottery is a method of raising revenue for a state. It has evolved from a tool used for funding public works and civil defense in early America to a tax-free source of income.
In the late nineteenth century, however, the federal government began to cut back on its contributions to state coffers, and many of these states began to seek other methods of raising revenue. This, according to Cohen, prompted legislators in the East and Rust Belt to pursue a strategy of legalizing lotteries.
Dismissing long-standing ethical objections to lottery, these new advocates argued that, since people would gamble anyway, the state might as well pocket the profits. This argument had some limits–by its logic, governments should also sell heroin–but it gave moral cover to people who approved of state-run gambling for other reasons.
There are a number of different types of lotteries, but they all share basic elements. They usually involve some form of recording the identity of the bettor and the amount staked, and they involve some means of selecting the numbers or symbols to be drawn.
The first European lotteries appeared in the fifteenth-century Low Countries, where towns sought to raise funds for defenses or to assist the poor. They were a common practice in England in the sixteenth century, and they eventually made their way to America.
Almost forty jurisdictions in the United States now have an official lottery. These games are run by their respective governments and governed by their own laws. The most popular lottery games are Mega Millions and Powerball, which are offered in many states.