The official lottery is a form of gambling in which people spend money on tickets that contain a set of numbers and hope to match those numbers with the numbers drawn. The prize is then paid out to the winners.

In the past, governments used lotteries to raise money for public good. The first modern European lotteries appeared in fifteenth-century Burgundy and Flanders, where towns sought to fortify their defenses and to help the poor.

Eventually, however, government-sanctioned lotteries became a source of political controversy. Some critics argued that they should be banned altogether, and others questioned their morality. The most vociferous critics were devout Protestants, who felt that government-sponsored lotteries were morally unjustified.

As the twentieth century drew to a close, many state governments faced a difficult financial challenge. A swelling population, rising inflation, and the cost of the Vietnam War had made it harder to balance budgets without raising taxes or cutting services.

While some argued that lotteries could make up the difference, others feared they would take a disproportionate toll on lower-income citizens. This was especially true in poor communities, where lottery retailers tended to be located.

During the late nineteen-sixties, advocates for legalization lobbied aggressively to persuade voters to support state-run lotteries. They argued that, if the lottery was legalized, it would generate enough revenue to cover most of a state’s needs, including education and vital services like elderly care.