The state lottery provides the public with a relatively inexpensive way to gamble on a large jackpot. The game is popular in about three-fourths of the states in the United States, and is a key source of state revenue.
The first state lottery was established in New Hampshire in 1964, after 10 years of legislative effort. Since that time, state lotteries have expanded in size and complexity, generating billions of dollars each year for their sponsoring states.
Despite the enormous revenues, a number of critics argue that lottery gambling promotes addictive behavior, is a major regressive tax on lower-income groups, and leads to other abuses. Critics also charge that lottery revenues do not provide any tangible benefits to the state and are a poor substitute for higher taxes.
Supporters of state lotteries claim that lottery revenues can be relied upon to fund a variety of social programs and public services, including education. This argument is based on the belief that the public will spend their extra money for a worthwhile cause and that governments must find ways to get tax revenue without raising taxes.
To operate a state lottery, the state must create a board of directors or state agents that administer the lottery and designate specific functions, such as ensuring that tickets are sold throughout the state, establishing rules and regulations, and handling prize payments. In addition, state officials must maintain a system of security measures to protect lottery money and tickets from theft and fraud.