The official lottery is the procedure for distributing something (usually money or prizes) among a group of people according to chance. The term is most often applied to state-sponsored games that involve the payment of a consideration (money or goods) for a chance to win a prize based on random selection. Private lotteries are also common and may involve the sale of products, services, or property for a premium over market price.

Historically, state-sponsored lotteries were popular sources of public funds for both commercial and noncommercial purposes. Benjamin Franklin held a lottery in Philadelphia to raise money for the establishment of a militia to protect the city from French marauders; John Hancock ran one to help build Boston’s Faneuil Hall; and George Washington used his own lottery to fund construction of a road through a mountain pass in Virginia.

By the early 1800s, however, critics of state-sponsored lotteries arose from all sides of the political spectrum, including devout Protestants who saw gambling as morally unacceptable for states to conduct. Lottery opponents questioned both the ethics of funding public services through gambling and the amount of money that states really stood to gain.

New York began holding a government-run lottery in 1967 after the passage of a constitutional amendment. Since then, lottery proceeds have been directed primarily toward education. The lottery has generated more than $34 billion for students, including those with special needs and those from low-income households. In addition, the New York lottery offers many different games including a daily game called Take5 where players can win a jackpot prize of up to tens of thousands of dollars.