Official lottery refers to a state-run, government-endorsed gambling game that raises funds for public purposes. Lotteries may be fixed-sum games in which the prize is a certain sum of money, or they may be percentage-based, such as when a lottery game’s organizers promise that 50% of all ticket sales will go toward the jackpot. Many states have laws regulating the operation of official lottery. These rules are designed to protect participants, promote responsible play, and encourage transparency. If you are considering playing a lottery, make sure to review the relevant state laws and read all official drawing results before placing your bets.

Lotteries have a long history in the United States, and have raised billions of dollars for public works projects and education. But as Cohen explains, America’s love of the lottery “could not match its moral aversion to taxation,” and the games became “the source of enormous profits for private promoters and the scapegoat for a host of public corruption.” Benjamin Franklin ran a lottery to fund a militia, John Hancock held one to rebuild Boston’s Faneuil Hall, and George Washington used one to finance his attempt to build a road over a mountain pass in Virginia.

As the population grew and inflation rose, though, state governments found it harder to balance their budgets without raising taxes or cutting services, and the lotteries were reborn as a popular alternative. Today, super-sized jackpots attract the attention of news sites and the public, and encourage people to purchase more tickets, even when they know that their odds of winning are slim.