A lottery is a game of chance in which numbers are drawn by a state or federal government. The winning ticket holders share a prize, which may be large sums of money. Lotteries are often used as a way to raise money for public projects. They can also be a fun and educational tool for kids & teens to learn about saving, investing & financial planning. This article explains what a lottery is and how it works in the United States.

During the nineteenth century, the lottery spread from England to America, despite Protestant proscriptions against gambling. Benjamin Franklin ran a lottery to raise funds for cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British during the American Revolution. Several colonial governments later held private lotteries, and the games became widely accepted in most American states.

In the nineteen-sixties, Cohen writes, the growing awareness of all the money to be made in gambling collided with a crisis in state funding. As inflation and the cost of the Vietnam War accelerated, states struggled to balance budgets without raising taxes or cutting services, which would be politically unpopular.

A state lottery, it was argued, could be a relatively painless source of revenue. It was easy to sell to voters, and it could be used for a single line item in the budget – invariably education, though sometimes veterans’ benefits or public parks. In addition, advocates of legalized gambling argued that a vote for the lottery was not a vote against state spending, but a vote to help those in need.