The Official Lottery

The official lottery is a state-run gambling game that uses the casting of lots to award prizes. Currently, more than thirty states and the District of Columbia have a lottery. State lotteries are regulated by state law, and are overseen by state agents and agencies, such as a lottery director or a state lottery commission. State legislatures create lotteries by statute, and these laws often specify details, such as the number of prize levels, how the games are played, what documentation a winner must present to claim a prize, and what happens if a person cannot be located.

Supporters of the official lottery argue that it is a better alternative to taxes, and that it is a way to siphon funds away from illegal gambling operations. Critics, on the other hand, contend that state lotteries do not make as much money as advertised, and that they promote addictive gambling behavior and impose a large regressive tax on lower-income groups.

Official state lotteries are run as a business, with the primary goal of increasing revenues. This means that they have every incentive to tell voters and players all the good things the lotteries are doing, notwithstanding the fact that they may not be doing that much. This creates a fundamental conflict between the state’s desire to maximize revenue and its responsibility to protect citizens from gambling addiction.