The Official Lottery

A lottery is a game in which players can win money or other prizes by matching numbers drawn from a large pool. State and federal governments regulate the game, which has been popular in many countries for centuries. The first official lottery in the Americas was established in 1616 as a way to raise money for the Jamestown colonial venture chartered by King Charles, and lotteries eventually spread throughout the 13 original colonies. Today, 44 states offer some form of lotteries. Generally, you can purchase tickets from local retailers or at state-licensed online retailers such as Jackpocket (which only operates in states where it has discussed its business model with regulators and received the OK).

Lottery winners must submit a claim form and proof of identification to the lottery office within 180 days after winning. Depending on where the winner lives, additional taxes may be withheld from the prize amount. For example, residents of New York must pay an extra city tax. If a winning ticket is in trust, the trustee must provide a copy of the trust documents and a Social Security number for the beneficiary.

Lottery proceeds have helped build churches, libraries, and some of America’s best universities. But they have also created inequities, particularly for low-income people. Lotteries “dangle the promise of instant riches in an age of inequality and diminished social mobility,” says the Howard Center’s Gregory W. Sullivan, who adds that lottery profits disproportionately benefit middle- and upper-class neighborhoods far from the lower-income ones where lottery tickets are sold.