Official lottery is a form of gambling that involves a drawing of numbers in order to determine the winner of a prize, such as money or goods. In some countries, it is considered to be an illegal activity, but others endorse and regulate it. Lotteries are most commonly held by governments, but can also be privately organized.

It’s not just the potential prize sum that attracts players. In the 1700s, Denmark Vesey—an enslaved person in Charleston, South Carolina—won a local lottery and used the winnings to purchase his freedom. This and other incidents of crookedness helped tip the scales against lottery gambling in America by the 1800s. “It’s partially a religious and moral sensibility,” Cohen says, but it was also a matter of practicality: Lottery proceeds were often diverted from their intended purposes—including building colleges, he notes—and into the pockets of lottery organizers and other corrupt officials.

Despite the controversy surrounding the issue, many states have legalized state-run lotteries. Some have even banded together to create multi-state games, such as Powerball and Mega Millions, that can draw large numbers of participants and generate massive jackpots.

New York’s Addabbo says he is confident that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will support his bill to allow lottery winners to remain anonymous, citing its public safety benefits. New York already allows lottery winnings to be claimed by the persons whose name appears on the ticket, he says, but allowing winners to remain anonymous would make it easier for them to use their winnings for education and other purposes.