Official lottery is a system of state-sponsored gambling, with prizes awarded to those who purchase tickets for a chance to win cash or goods. State lotteries are also a form of taxation, and their proceeds benefit government agencies. The prize money can be a fixed amount of cash or goods, or it can be a percentage of the ticket sales.

A number of states have lotteries to raise funds for a variety of purposes, including public education. These are regressive taxes, meaning that lower-income citizens pay more in lottery taxes than higher-income people. The amount of money raised by lotteries is a small fraction of the total revenue collected by state governments.

In addition, many states have laws regulating the operation of their lotteries. These laws govern the distribution of lottery funds, time limits for claiming prizes and activities that are considered illegal. Many of these laws are based on the belief that gambling can have adverse social and economic effects.

The first recorded lotteries were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century to raise money for town fortifications and to help the poor. These early lotteries were popular and hailed as a painless form of taxation. Since then, many states have adopted a similar approach. Lotteries are now available across the United States and are an important source of revenue for many state governments.