The Official Lottery

The official lottery is a government-sponsored game of chance that offers prizes such as cash, cars and trips. Some states operate their own lotteries; others participate in national multi-state games such as Mega Millions and Powerball. State laws govern the operation and accounting of these games; how money paid for tickets is distributed; and time limits for claiming prizes.

In the United States, state-run lotteries have become ubiquitous. They raise a substantial amount of revenue for the states that allow them, often to benefit a specific beneficiary (such as K-12 education). Most lotteries feature a mix of scratch-off tickets and number-picking games that carry sizable cash prizes. Many of the drawings feature smiling winners holding giant checks for at-home viewing audiences.

There is, of course, the inextricable human desire to gamble and hope for a big payoff. Lottery marketers know that well, and they dangle the promise of instant riches in front of an ever-widening pool of potential players. But there’s a lot more to these games than just that: By inflating the initial odds of winning, they also contribute to a sense of entitlement and deceive people into thinking they can buy their way out of poverty and into wealth.