Lotteries are gambling games that draw winners by chance. They are regulated by state laws and can be legal or illegal, depending on the specific rules of each game. Many states have official lotteries that raise money for things like public education or infrastructure. These are generally considered to be legitimate, and can be operated by a variety of businesses. Others may operate unofficial lotteries that violate state laws and are not sanctioned by the state.

For example, New York has a state lottery that offers prizes in a number of categories, including sports teams and college scholarships. You can play the NY lottery online or at physical retailers throughout the state. The lottery also has a mobile app that allows players to track winning numbers and results. In order to participate, you must be 18 years or older.

Some people have an inextricable urge to gamble, but there’s a lot more going on with state-sponsored lotteries than that. As Cohen writes, “Lottery advertising is designed to exploit and keep playing addictive, much like the strategies of tobacco companies or video-game manufacturers.”

The fact that state lotteries are incredibly profitable makes them attractive to politicians who want to balance budgets without raising taxes or cutting services. But there’s a problem with that logic: Even though state lottery profits are enormous, they’re just a drop in the bucket overall for actual state government. For example, between 1964 and 2019, lottery revenues totaled $502 billion—but that’s a tiny proportion of state income and expenditure.