The Official Lottery

The official lottery is the set of state-run lotteries and government-controlled games that provide proceeds for things like public education or infrastructure, explains Matheson. It includes big lottery entities such as Powerball and Mega Millions, which operate in multiple states. It also covers smaller lotteries that are run by individual state governments. It is legal for people to participate in a state-controlled lottery, though there are laws regarding fraud, forgery and theft that should be followed.

The modern lottery grew out of the nineteen-sixties, Cohen argues, as states seeking to solve budget crises without enraging their increasingly anti-tax electorate turned to gambling. The popularity of the lottery accelerated as jackpots began to grow to apparently newsworthy amounts, which in turn drove ticket sales.

Amid this rise, the lottery was still opposed by some. It tapped into scant resources, encouraged short-lived excitement and ultimately despondency, when those hopes were repeatedly crushed. It also damages people in the long term by sapping their ability to make decisions about their own finances and careers. It breeds false hope that leads to bad choices, he says, in addition to damaging the social fabric.