The Official Lottery App

The official lottery offers fun, convenience and information to players on the go. Download the app to play games, see if you won and get customized push notifications.

Lottery games have a long history in the United States, but their current incarnation is relatively new. During the colonial era, lotteries were an important source of funds for religious buildings and other public works, but they were also seen as a means to finance slave revolts. In the 1800s, the same moral sensibilities that spawned prohibition began to turn against gambling in general, says Matheson, and the lottery was no exception.

As time went on, state governments, which were short on revenue and had an aversion to taxation, began to look at the lottery as a way to fund public services without arousing voter ire. The idea was that, as Cohen puts it, “lottery revenues would appear out of nowhere to cover a particular line item in the budget,” and thus relieve legislators of the need to address unpleasant subjects like higher taxes or reducing spending on favored government services.

It also seemed that a lottery could be sold to voters as a kind of civic duty, since it was popular with the working class and offered a chance for low-income people to make money. In addition, the large jackpots generated by lotteries were often newsworthy, driving interest and sales. This approach was successful enough that, by the mid-1980s, the lottery had spread to nearly every state, and it soon became possible to play a multi-state game such as Powerball.