Official lottery is a form of gambling that is run by states and territories. Its purpose is to raise money for state projects, such as public education. It is popular in the US and has resulted in many jackpots. Some of the most famous are Mega Millions and Powerball. In addition to the nationwide games, New York also offers an in-state lottery called Cash4Life.

In his book, Cohen argues that the modern lottery began in the nineteen sixties, when growing awareness of the profits to be made from gambling collided with a crisis of state funding. Thanks to population growth and the cost of a massive social safety net, many state governments found themselves in a precarious financial position, facing a choice between raising taxes or cutting services. A lottery seemed to offer an alternative solution that would please voters without raising taxes, and it quickly became the nation’s most popular form of gambling.

Lottery advocates argued that since people were going to gamble anyway, the government might as well collect the profits and use them to fund government services. This argument was effective in dismissing long-held ethical objections to gambling and appealing to a populist sensibility. It was also a convenient way for states to avoid raising taxes, which might have angered voters even more.

Today, the lottery raises about one percent of total state revenue. While this may sound like a significant amount, it is actually just a drop in the bucket. Moreover, the funds are collected inefficiently and spend very ineffectively. In addition, it is a highly regressive form of taxation that takes a heavy toll on low-income citizens.