Official lottery is a form of gambling wherein players attempt to match a series of numbers drawn at random. The winning numbers are announced by public announcements made on television or radio and published in newspapers. In the United States, state lotteries are regulated and operated by individual states or territories. However, a number of private lotteries are also legal in the US, and a large number of these offer prizes on the Internet.

In the early nineteenth century, state lotteries were promoted as a way of filling state coffers without raising taxes, and keeping money in the pockets of average citizens. Cohen notes that proponents believed that the profits from these games would offset public spending and provide enough money to support schools, police, and other services.

However, the reality proved much different. In fact, state lotteries largely failed to meet the financial expectations of their promoters. In the first year of operation, New Jersey’s lottery grossed thirty-three million dollars, which equaled less than two per cent of the state budget. In addition, the scandals associated with the Louisiana State Lottery Company proved a powerful deterrent to other states, which were still searching for solutions to budgetary problems that did not inflame an antitax public.

Some of the objections to state-run lotteries centered around ethical concerns. Many of these, however, were dismissed by lottery advocates who argued that people were going to gamble anyway, so governments might as well collect the profits and distribute them for the common good. The argument had its limits, but it provided moral cover for some white voters who approved of state-run lotteries.