Official lottery is a form of gambling in which many people purchase chances, called tickets. Winning tickets are drawn from a pool that includes all or most of the possible permutations of the numbers or symbols on the ticket. The prize is usually a sum of money or other items.

Lottery games are organized and operated by 48 jurisdictions in the United States, including 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and are governed by the laws of each jurisdiction.

In the United States, state-run lotteries generate more than $91 billion annually. These revenues are used to fund local programs, such as public education and law enforcement.

Initially, state lotteries were developed in response to the need for revenue in American society. During the eighteenth century, as American colonies began to emerge from colonial slavery, it became necessary to find new ways to finance government.

The lottery was a popular way to raise money, as it allowed states to avoid raising taxes and still maintain their existing services. As Cohen points out, the idea of a lottery seemed like a “budgetary miracle,” a way to keep state budgets under control without hiking tax rates or cutting social services.

By the nineteen-sixties, however, the United States was facing a serious fiscal crisis. With a growing population and rising inflation, the cost of maintaining and expanding services was becoming more difficult to handle without either increasing taxes or cutting public programs. The lottery appeared to be a solution that would not anger an increasingly anti-tax electorate.