State Lotteries in the US

The official lottery is an important source of revenue for many states, as well as territories. In addition to national jackpot games like Mega Millions and Powerball, many jurisdictions offer instant win or drawing games unique to their state.

How It Works

In a typical lottery, people buy a ticket or play online, which has a set of numbers on it. The numbers are drawn from a random number generator (RNG), and if your ticket matches the numbers, you win some of the money that you spent. The state or local government gets the rest.

Why It’s Popular

Lotteries have long been an important source of revenue for governments. In the medieval Low Countries, they were used to build town fortifications and provide charity for the poor. The practice migrated to England in 1567.

Legalizing Lotteries

As budgetary crises plagued state after state, proponents of the lottery claimed that it would fill their coffers without requiring new taxes, keeping money in the pockets of the public instead of diverting it to criminal enterprises. They also argued that state-run gambling would draw more Black players and ease their friction with the police.

While lotteries do bring in substantial amounts of money, they take a disproportionately heavy toll on lower income citizens. As a result, they have made it more difficult to pass needed tax increases. They also prey on the poor, exploiting them into paying into a system that never gives them anything in return.