The official lottery is the organization of state-sanctioned gambling that raises money through games such as keno, instant tickets and video poker. Unlike commercial casinos and private clubs, which pay taxes on their profits, state lotteries do not. They rely on the public to play for a prize, which can range from a free ticket to millions of dollars. Lotteries have been around for thousands of years. The earliest known record of a drawing for a prize is a keno slip from the Chinese Han dynasty between 205 and 187 BC.

Proponents argue that a state can use the revenue from a lottery to provide important services without increasing taxes on its citizens. They also claim that state lotteries are not the same as regular gambling, because players voluntarily spend their own money for a chance to win a prize. In practice, however, lottery proceeds are only a drop in the bucket for state governments, making up no more than 1 to 2 percent of total state revenues.

Since the early 1970s, state lotteries have been experimenting with a variety of new games to increase or maintain their profits. One of the most significant innovations was a daily numbers game that replicated the illegal number games that were once common in many cities. The result was a massive increase in the amount of money the lottery brought in, but also generated concerns that it promoted addictive gambling and other problems.