The official lottery, as its name suggests, is a state-regulated game that raises money for public benefits. Each state enacts laws to govern the lottery and its operations, which are typically delegated to a state lottery board or commission. This group selects and approves retailers, trains employees of those retailers to operate lottery terminals, distributes winning tickets, pays high-tier prizes to players, and ensures that people are playing official state games. It also enforces lottery laws and rules, such as age restrictions and time limits for claiming prizes.
Early America was rife with lotteries, Cohen writes; they were a popular source of revenue that funded everything from civil defense to churches. But critics questioned the morality of government-sanctioned gambling, and many devout Protestants viewed it as unconscionable. But this objection faded with a need for cash: The nation became increasingly defined by an aversion to taxation, and the lottery provided a reliable alternative source of funds.
Despite ethical concerns, state-run lotteries were popular in the United States and continue to be. There is no national lottery, but consortiums of states work together to organize multi-state games that offer larger jackpots and attract more players. It’s not hard to understand why: In an era where everyone loves to have a little flutter, lottery profits have become a valuable source of state revenue. In addition, a winner’s jackpot doesn’t have to be distributed evenly among the participants. One person can take all the loot, if pimpish luck decrees it.