The Howard Center’s Official Lottery

Official Lottery is a free, online application that lets you play state-approved lottery games on your phone or tablet. You can also use it to track your results, check your ticket serial number, and get email confirmations for each purchase. Just remember to play responsibly and never while crossing streets or operating motor vehicles.

State-run lotteries originally marketed themselves as ways for people to win money and help support public services. But that premise didn’t quite hold up to scrutiny. The reality is that lottery players are paying for a system that’s essentially mathematically stacked against them. And, as the Howard Center has found, lotteries often prey on poor and minority communities.

Lottery profits have long been a favorite source of revenue for states and localities that don’t want to raise taxes. It’s no wonder they appeal to legislators desperate for ways to maintain their spending levels without incurring the ire of anti-tax voters.

But the encroaching moral and religious sensibilities that led to prohibition eventually worked against gambling in general, and state-sanctioned lotteries in particular. Beginning in the 1800s, a growing sense of corruption and mismanagement turned many Americans against it. That’s when lotteries started shifting their marketing strategies, from promoting the notion that they’d float all of a state’s budget to arguing that they would pay for one line item—usually education, but sometimes elder care or public parks or aid for veterans. This narrower approach made legalization easier, and it gave states a way to convince voters that they were not voting for gambling but for a vital government service.