The official lottery is a state-run game of chance that generates proceeds to support public programs, such as education and infrastructure. The games are regulated by state laws and must obey laws regarding fraud, forgery and theft. Players must be 18 years or older to play.
In the nineteen-seventies, as Cohen notes, state lotteries were becoming popular as a way to finance everything from roads and bridges to universities and hospitals. In this period of budget crises, politicians cast around for solutions that would not enrage an increasingly anti-tax electorate. Lotteries were one answer, because they supposedly made only a tiny drop in the bucket of total state revenues.
The first recorded signs of a lottery date back to China in the Han Dynasty between 205 and 187 BC, where lotteries were used for public works like canals and waterways. The modern American state lottery was introduced in 1964, and it has since raised more than $502 billion. The vast majority of those funds go to benefit public programs. The New York lottery, for example, began in 1967 with the promise of using the proceeds to fund education; it has since done so, with billions of dollars raised in the process.
New York’s state-run lottery is a member of the Mega Millions and Powerball conglomerates, meaning that it has access to national pools of ticket sales and jackpots. It is also subject to local taxes, including a 5 percent city tax in New York City and a 2 percent county tax in Yonkers. Lottery winners may be required to sign a receipt that includes a federal tax withholding form, and they are advised to consult their tax advisor.