Lotteries in the United States

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In the United States, lotteries are run by 47 jurisdictions: 44 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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.[1] Not every colony allowed gaming, however. The Massachusetts-Bay Colony, for example, did not allow cards, dice or gaming tables, even in private residences.[1] In most colonies however, gambling was seen as a harmless distraction, as long as it was played in a gentlemanly manner.[1]

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.[1] The investors saw gambling as a root cause of the colonies' inability to sustain themselves.[1]

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.[1] These lotteries were quite sophisticated for the time period and even included instant winners.[1] Not long after, each of the 13 original colonies established a lottery system to raise revenue, and playing the lottery became a civic responsibility.[1]

In early American history, legislators commonly authorized lotteries to fund schools, roads, bridges, and other public works.[2] Evangelical reformers in the 1830s began denouncing lotteries on moral grounds, and petitioned legislatures and constitutional conventions to ban them.[3] Recurring lottery scandals and a general backlash against legislative corruption following the Panic of 1837 also contributed to anti-lottery sentiments.[3] From 1844 to 1859 alone, ten new state constitutions contained lottery bans.[3] By 1890, lotteries were prohibited in every state except Delaware and Louisiana.[4]

Early lotteries[edit]

Lotteries in the United States did not always have a sterling reputation.

One early lottery in particular, the National Lottery, which was passed by Congress for the beautification of Washington D.C., and which was administered by the municipal government, was the subject of a major U.S. Supreme Court decision in Cohens v. Virginia.[5]

It was never paid out.[1][clarification needed] 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.[1] 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.[1] In 1868, after years of illegal operation, the Louisiana Lottery Company obtained a 25 year charter for its state lottery system.[1] The charter was passed by the Legislature due to the immense bribing from a criminal syndicate in New York.[1] The Louisiana Lottery Company was a huge money maker and 90% of its revenue came from tickets sold across state borders.[1] These continued issues of corruption led to the complete prohibition of lotteries in the United States by 1895.[1] 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.[1]

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,[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

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 revenues[edit]

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.[9]

Lottery policies within states can have conflicting goals.[10] 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.[10] 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.[10] This led to an IRS investigation into alleged non-reporting of income because in the eyes of the IRS, the coupons had monetary value.[10]

States with no lotteries[edit]

Among the states that do not have lotteries, Alabama, Mississippi, and Utah cite religious objections.[11] Nevada's lucrative gambling industry has lobbied against a state lottery there, fearing the competition.[12] Alaska and Hawaii, being outside the contiguous United States, have not felt the pressure of losing sales to competitors.[11]

US lotteries[edit]

 A map of the United States with the states with lotteries highlighted
Map showing US lottery jurisdictions (in blue) - States highlighted offer Mega Millions and Powerball as of May 15, 2013; the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands each also offer both games
State or Territory Lottery Other
Alabama No
Alaska No
Arizona Yes 0
Arkansas Yes 1
California Yes 1
Colorado Yes 0
Connecticut Yes 1
Delaware Yes 2
District of Columbia Yes 1
Florida Yes 0
Georgia Yes 1
Hawaii No
Idaho Yes 2
Illinois Yes 0
Indiana Yes 0
Iowa Yes 2
Kansas Yes 2
Kentucky Yes 1
Louisiana Yes 0
Maine Yes 6
Maryland Yes 0
Massachusetts Yes 0
Michigan Yes 0
Minnesota Yes 2
Mississippi No
Missouri Yes 0
Montana Yes 2
Nebraska Yes 1
Nevada No
New Hampshire Yes 6
New Jersey Yes 1
New Mexico Yes 1
New York Yes 1
North Carolina Yes 0
North Dakota Yes 3
Ohio Yes 0
Oklahoma Yes 1
Oregon Yes 0
Pennsylvania Yes 0
Puerto Rico Yes 0
Rhode Island Yes 2
South Carolina Yes 0
South Dakota Yes 2
Tennessee Yes 1
Texas Yes 0
Utah No
US Virgin Islands Yes 0
Vermont Yes 6
Virginia Yes 1
Washington Yes 0
West Virginia Yes 2
Wisconsin Yes 0
Wyoming Yes

Other joint U.S. lotteries[edit]

These games also are offered by multiple lotteries. Some of these games feature a shared progressive jackpot:

  • 2by2 – Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota
  • All or Nothing - Iowa, Minnesota (several other draw games with this name are one-state games)
  • Cash4Life - New Jersey, New York; possibly Pennsylvania in spring 2015
  • Hot Lotto – Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia
  • Lucky for Life - Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont; possibly Texas in Summer 2015
  • MegaHits (slot machine) – Delaware, Rhode Island, West Virginia
  • Tri-State Lottery (Megabucks Plus, Pick 3 (Day & Night), Pick 4 (Day & Night), Fast Play) - Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont
  • Wild Card 2 – Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota

Prizes and chance of winning[edit]


Number of matches Win Probability of winning on one play
5/5 + powerball Grand Prize 1 in 175,223,510
5/5 $1,000,000 1 in 5,153,633
4/5 + powerball $10,000 1 in 648,976
4/5 $100 1 in 19,088
3/5 + powerball $100 1 in 12,245
3/5 $7 1 in 360
2/5 + powerball $7 1 in 706
1/5 + powerball $4 1 in 111
powerball $4 1 in 55

The overall odds of winning a prize are 1 in 31.85. The odds presented here are based on a $2 play.

Mega Millions

Number of matches Win Probability of winning on one play
5/5 + bonus Grand Prize 1 in 258,890,850
5/5 $1,000,000 1 in 18,492,204
4/5 + bonus $5,000 1 in 739,688
4/5 $500 1 in 52,835
3/5 + bonus $50 1 in 10,720
3/5 $5 1 in 766
2/5 + bonus $5 1 in 473
1/5 + bonus $2 1 in 56
bonus $1 1 in 21

The overall odds of winning a prize are 1 in 14.7. The odds presented here are based on a $1 play.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Roger Dunstan (January 1997). "History of Gambling in the United States". 
  2. ^ McMaster, John Bach (1911). A History of the People of the United States: From the Revolution to the Civil War. Appleton and Company. p. 588. 
  3. ^ a b c Szymanski, Ann-Marie E. (2003). Pathways to Prohibition: Radicals, Moderates, and Social Movement Outcomes. Duke University Press. pp. 95–96. ISBN 978-0-8223-3169-8. 
  4. ^ John Houston Merrill; Charles Frederic Williams; Thomas Johnson Michie; David Shephard Garland (1890). The American and English Encyclopædia of Law: Least to Mail. Edward Thompson Company. p. 1172. 
  5. ^ Jean Edward Smith, John Marshall: Definer Of A Nation, New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1996, pp. 456-459
  6. ^ "Ley Núm. 74 de 2006 -Ley del Programa de Ayuda a Jugadores Compulsivos de Puerto". Retrieved 2012-07-26. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "U.S. lotteries and the state taxman". Reuters. July 15, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c d NGISC (August 3, 1999). "National Gambling Impact Study Commission Lotteries". 
  11. ^ a b "Seven states that don't have lotteries". CNN Money. December 17, 2013. Retrieved November 11, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Knowing Vegas: Why doesn’t Nevada have a state lottery?". Las Vegas Review-Journal. April 11, 2014. Retrieved November 11, 2014.