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The Official Lottery

The official lottery is a government-sponsored game wherein participants pay a small fee to have a chance to win a big prize. Lottery profits can be used for a variety of purposes, including public education and other social services. The games are run by state governments or national organizations. In the United States, there are currently 48 state-operated lotteries. Many of these participate in multi-state games like Powerball and Mega Millions, which increase the size of jackpots.

Lottery tickets can be purchased at authorized retailers. When a ticket is purchased, the purchaser agrees to the Official Lottery Rules and Regulations. In the event of any conflict between these documents and any other document provided on this website, the enabling statutes, official rules, regulations and procedures shall prevail.

The modern lottery was born out of a need for state revenue. In the immediate post-World War II period, states were frantically searching for ways to keep up their array of public services without enraging an increasingly anti-tax electorate. The lottery seemed to be the answer, offering states a way to grow their budgets by adding new services and expanding old ones—without the political headache of raising taxes.

Advocates of the lottery often argue that gambling is inevitable, so the government might as well offer games to capture it. But this view obscures the regressivity of lottery proceeds. Moreover, it assumes that lottery sales are largely driven by economic fluctuations and that lottery spending is a rational choice, when in fact the money spent on lottery tickets is correlated with low incomes, unemployment and poverty rates.