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In the US, lotteries are subject to the laws of each jurisdiction; there is no national lottery.
Gambling as a generalization has roots in the United States and other English colonies as far back as the 1600s. Not every colony allowed gaming, however. The Massachusetts-Bay Colony, for example, did not allow cards, dice or gaming tables, even in private residences. In most colonies however, gambling was seen as a harmless distraction, as long as it was played in a gentlemanly manner.
The acceptance of gambling in the colonies was fairly short-lived by English investors, as it was seen as a sign of laziness and as a vice. The investors saw gambling as a root cause of the colonies' inability to sustain themselves.
While lotteries were not only used as a form of entertainment, they were a revenue source to help fund the colonies. The financiers of Jamestown for instance, funded lotteries in order to raise money to support their colony. These lotteries were quite sophisticated for the time period and even included instant winners. Not long after, each of the 13 original colonies established a lottery system to raise revenue, and playing the lottery became a civic responsibility.
In early American history, legislators commonly authorized lotteries to fund schools, roads, bridges, and other public works. Evangelical reformers in the 1830s began denouncing lotteries on moral grounds, and petitioned legislatures and constitutional conventions to ban them. Recurring lottery scandals and a general backlash against legislative corruption following the Panic of 1837 also contributed to anti-lottery sentiments. From 1844 to 1859 alone, ten new state constitutions contained lottery bans. By 1890, lotteries were prohibited in every state except Delaware and Louisiana.
Lotteries in the United States did not always have a sterling reputation. One lottery in particular was passed by Congress in 1823 for the beautification of Washington D.C. and was never paid out. This lottery brought to light the prevalent issue of crookedness amongst the lotteries in the United States. The wave of anti-lottery protests finally broke through when, by 1860, all states had prohibited lotteries except Delaware, Missouri, and Kentucky. The scarcity of lotteries in the United States meant that tickets were shipped across the country and eventually led to the creation of illegal lotteries. In 1868, after years of illegal operation, the Louisiana Lottery Company obtained a 25 year charter for its state lottery system. The charter was passed by the Legislature due to the immense bribing from a criminal syndicate in New York. The Louisiana Lottery Company was a huge money maker and 90% of its revenue came from tickets sold across state borders. These continued issues of corruption led to the complete prohibition of lotteries in the United States by 1895. It was discovered that the promoters of the Louisiana Lottery Company had accrued immense sums of money from illegitimate sources and that the Legislature was riddled with bribery.
Before the advent of government-sponsored lotteries, many illegal lotteries thrived, such as numbers games. The first modern government-run US lottery was established in Puerto Rico in 1934, followed by New Hampshire in 1964; today, lotteries are established in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands; The most recent US lottery to be legalized was in Wyoming; it began operation on July 1, 2013 although tickets will not be sold for about a year. Some retailers that sit on state lines often offer both state lotteries with state boundaries clearly marked, since such sales still have to occur in the physical state it is offered; one retailer located along U.S. Route 62 that is largely in Sharon, Pennsylvania but has a small portion lying in Masury, Ohio sells both the Ohio Lottery and the Pennsylvania Lottery at one location.
The first modern US joint lottery game was formed in 1985 in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. In 1988, the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) was formed with Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia as its charter members; it is best known for Powerball, which was designed to create large jackpots. Another joint lottery, The Big Game (now called Mega Millions), was formed in 1996 by six other lotteries as its charter members.
Instant lottery tickets, also known as scratch cards, were introduced in the 1970s and have become a major source of lottery revenue. Some lotteries have introduced keno and/or video lottery terminals (slot machines in all but name).
Individual lotteries often feature three-digit and four-digit games akin to "numbers games"; a five number game game, and a six number game (the latter two often have a jackpot.) Some lotteries also offer at least one game similar to keno. Presently, many US lotteries support public education systems.
State lotteries have become a significant source of revenue for the states, raising $17.6 billion in profits for state budgets in the 2009 fiscal year (FY) with 11 states collecting more revenue from their state lottery than from their state corporate income tax during FY2009.
Lottery policies within states can have conflicting goals. Given that instructions are passed down from state legislatures, lottery implementation is often expected to be carried out with reduced advertising and funding while still producing the same amount of revenue. This issue led states to look for loopholes in the system. Massachusetts for example, had its advertising budget dramatically cut, and therefore started using free-play coupons as money to pay for advertising. This led to an IRS investigation into alleged non-reporting of income because in the eyes of the IRS, the coupons had monetary value.
|State or Territory||Lottery||Other|
|District of Columbia||Yes||1|
|US Virgin Islands||Yes||0|
These games also are offered by multiple lotteries. Some of these games feature a shared progressive jackpot: