The official lottery is a type of gambling in which payment is made for the chance to win a prize. The prize can be money, goods, or services. Lottery games can be organized by private groups, governments, or public service organizations. The New York State Lottery, for example, raises money to benefit local schools. Lotteries are also used for military conscription, commercial promotions in which property is given away by a random procedure, and the selection of jury members. In the United States, the first government-run lottery was established in Puerto Rico in 1934 and the New Hampshire Lottery in 1964. Today, most state-run lotteries generate revenue that is primarily directed to public education.

Defenders of the official lottery argue that, since people will gamble anyway, the government might as well take advantage of the opportunity to collect taxes from a group of citizens who may not otherwise support it. This argument has a problem, however. The lottery is a form of regressive taxation, meaning that it levies a higher burden on poor and middle-class taxpayers than on wealthier ones.

A second moral argument against the lottery is that it is a form of coerced participation. As with any commercial product, the lottery is highly responsive to economic fluctuation; sales rise when unemployment and poverty rates increase and when advertising exposure is heightened. Moreover, like most commercial products, the lottery is marketed to groups with disproportionately lower incomes and educational attainment than the general population.