The Official Lottery

Official Lottery

State laws govern the operation of the lottery, including accounting and reporting; distribution of winnings; and time limits for claiming prizes. In addition, some states have a variety of other regulations that govern how players may participate. Some of these include age and identification requirements, purchase restrictions and limitations on prizes.

The modern lottery emerged in the immediate postwar period, when a boom in population and inflation brought to a head America’s shaky finances. With a generous social safety net, state governments were having trouble balancing budgets without raising taxes or cutting services. Amid this tumult, lottery advocates saw gambling as an alternative way to fund government programs.

Lotteries are government-sponsored games of chance that award winners a prize based on numbers or symbols drawn in a random drawing. Most countries have a national or state lottery. In the United States, there are 48 state-based lotteries. The largest two offer multistate games that allow players from across the country to participate.

There is, as Cohen points out, “an inextricable human impulse to play.” But there’s also, she says, a “more sinister and dangerous thing” about these games: the promise of instant riches in a nation where social mobility is already low.

New York Senator Joe Addabbo, who chairs the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, has seen that firsthand. He’s had constituents harassed by financial advisers and solicitors posing as lottery officials, who have prompted him to reintroduce legislation that would maximize public safety while allowing New Yorkers to choose whether they want to remain anonymous.