Official lottery is a type of gambling in which people purchase chances to win prizes such as money and goods by drawing lots. The top prizes for the largest lotteries often exceed a million dollars. Typically, the lottery is run by state governments, although privately organized lotteries may also exist. Lotteries are also sometimes known as sweepstakes, instant-win games, or games of chance.
In the early modern world, lotteries became widely accepted as a method of raising funds for public projects and charities. They were used by the Virginia Company of London to establish and financially support Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, and later to raise money for a variety of public and private ventures, including churches, libraries, and some of the first American colleges, such as Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, and King’s College (now Columbia).
Many states now offer official online lottery games that players can access via their smartphones or computers. The New Hampshire lottery, for example, offers its e-Instants games through an application called Jackpocket, which purchases official tickets from authorized retailers on behalf of customers.
However, the proliferation of official online lotteries is not without controversy. Some critics argue that they contribute to inequality by disproportionately benefiting middle- and upper-class families with children in schools far from low-income communities where lottery tickets are sold. Other critics point out that, despite their popularity, state lotteries are “drops in the bucket” when it comes to generating revenue for government services.