The official lottery is a state-operated lottery that provides the public with an opportunity to win a prize by matching numbers or symbols. Many states have state-run lotteries, and the prizes can be very large. Lottery tickets are sold at convenience stores and other retail outlets, and can be purchased by anyone over the age of 18. The proceeds from these games often support government services and public works projects.

Most state-run lotteries started in the immediate post-World War II period, when states were looking for ways to expand their social safety nets without imposing onerous taxes on middle and working classes. But this arrangement proved to be unsustainable, especially as the nation became more polarized, and state governments were no longer able to generate enough money from sales taxes and other revenue sources to pay for their services.

Today, 44 states and the District of Columbia have some kind of official lottery. Each has its own mix of instant-win scratch-off games and traditional drawing-style games. Players can purchase tickets in person at retailers throughout the state. They can also play online and on mobile devices.

New York’s lottery was launched in 1967, promising to use proceeds to fund education. And it has done so, raising billions of dollars for school districts across the state. When winners are notified, the New York Lottery asks for a valid Social Security number to verify identity and claim winnings. The commission also requires a signed claim form and a copy of the winner’s driver’s license to make sure there are no outstanding claims or warrants against the winner.