The official lottery is a state-sanctioned gambling game that is used to raise revenue. Each lottery is governed by its own set of rules and regulations and is subject to the laws of its jurisdiction. The rules identify the official purpose of the lottery, dictate the manner in which lottery revenues are distributed and establish time limits for claiming prizes. Click on a link below to view your state lottery laws.

In Cohen’s telling, the modern government-run lottery emerged in the nineteen-sixties, when a growing awareness of all the money to be made from numbers games and a desperate need for state funding began to collide. With state governments providing a generous social safety net and facing a growing population, it became increasingly difficult for them to balance their budgets without raising taxes or cutting services.

The lottery proved to be a tempting alternative. As he notes, America was “a country defined politically by an aversion to taxation”—yet it was also “a nation short of cash for everything from civil defense to the construction of churches.” Lotteries provided both.

Today, most state lotteries offer three-digit games akin to numbers games; four-digit games akin to powerball; five-digit games with jackpots; and keno. Some states also offer instant lottery tickets, video lottery terminals and other games. Most state lotteries are run as independent entities, but some have joined together to create consortium games with larger geographic footprints and higher jackpots. While the games vary from state to state, some common elements of an official lottery include a central organization that oversees operations and accounting; a system for selling tickets; a process for recording stakes placed on winning combinations; and a mechanism for determining the winners.