Official lottery is a gambling game wherein people pay money to win prizes that are declared by the government. It is the largest form of gambling in the United States and is regulated by state governments. The governing bodies make rules to determine how much the games are and the odds of winning. Some states use the proceeds from the games to support education, while others use them for other public purposes such as road and park maintenance.

Lotteries are an important part of American culture and have been around for centuries. In the past, private citizens and colonial governments used them to award monetary prizes, land, houses, slaves, and other goods. After the revolution, lotteries became a popular way for the state to raise money for public purposes.

Between 1964 and 2019, the states have raised a total of $502 billion through lotteries. That sounds like a lot, but when compared to actual state government revenue, it’s only about 1 or 2 percent of the budgets. That means that the rest of the money has to come from other sources, such as income taxes, property tax, sales tax, and general fund appropriations.

State lotteries are a business that makes money, so the commissions have every incentive to tell voters and players all of the good they’re doing by raising revenue. The problem is that this narrative obscures how regressive the games are and how much people spend on them.