Official lottery is a form of gambling in which people purchase chances to win prizes such as money or goods. Lotteries are legal in most states. The proceeds from these games are used for a variety of purposes, such as public education and infrastructure. There are also private lotteries that offer the chance to win cash or goods in a game of chance.

State-controlled lotteries raise revenue for government programs, but critics contend that they expose players to the risks of addiction. Some people use their winnings to buy drugs, alcohol or even new homes, putting themselves at risk of financial ruin and social disintegration. In addition, many people who are addicted to gambling spend more money than they can afford, and often end up in debt and in legal trouble.

The first modern, government-run lottery was established in Puerto Rico in 1934. Its success led to the establishment of more lotteries in the United States, including instant tickets and video lottery terminals. In addition, some states offer games like keno and baccarat. The majority of lottery revenues are used to support public education systems.

While lottery defenders argue that gambling is a tax on the stupid, this assertion is misleading. It suggests that lottery spending is a reflection of economic cycles, rather than an attempt to compensate for income inequality or lack of opportunity. In reality, as a recent Howard Center report points out, lottery advertising is most heavily promoted in neighborhoods that are disproportionately poor, black or Latino.