American lottery

Lotteries in America

There are lotteries in 44 states in North America, as well as in the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. This means there are 47 jurisdictions running at least 1 American Lottery, with each operating independently.

There is no single American Lottery and every jurisdiction does have its own rules, but consortiums of state lotteries do organise games that cross over state lines and carry larger jackpots. The 2 main games of this kind are Powerball and Mega Millions, which are both offered in almost all jurisdictions.

The History of the American Lottery

Like other English colonies, the United Sates has a gambling history that dates back to the 1600s. Activities such as card, dice and cable games were, however, soon prohibited as English investors considered gambling to be a major reason that the colonies couldn’t sustain themselves.

Lotteries were different at first, because they could entertain people and raise funds for the running of the colonies. Early legislators used lotteries to fund roads, bridges, schools and other public works. Over the course of the 1800s, most states blocked the games and by 1895 no American Lottery was legal.


Illicit lotteries flourished until government-sponsored lotteries were introduced. This was begun in Puerto Rico in 1934, but was only followed in 1964 by the establishment of a lottery in New Hampshire. More and more were initiated over time, and instant Scratch Card lotteries were introduced in the 1970s.

The Modern American Lottery

Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire formed the first joint-state lottery in the United States in 1985, and the Multi-State Lottery Association or MUSL followed in 1988. Its charter members were the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Oregon, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa and it is best known for Powerball, a game designed to generate large jackpots. The Big Game, now known as Mega Millions, was formed with 6 other lotteries as charter members.

Every jurisdiction except Puerto Rico offers both the Mega Millions and Powerball lottery games today, with Puerto Rico offering Powerball only. The MUSL and Mega Millions consortium agreed to cross-license their joint games to each other’s members. Although they still conduct their administrations completely separately, this makes playing both games easier and is more lucrative for both lottery entities. Cards remain very popular, and individual lotteries often feature 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-number games, with the 5- and 6-number options featuring jackpots. Some lotteries also feature Keno-like games.

Today it’s possible to buy tickets to every American lottery online, even from outside the United States. New applications such as Jackpot allow people to buy tickets over their smartphones and tablets as well. Video lottery terminals are used by some states as well, and are usually found in casinos.

Beneficial to Everyone

State lotteries are a significant source of revenue, and generate billions of dollars for the states that they operate in each year. Over time, many causes have been supported by these games. Many lotteries in the United States support public education today.

Buying lottery tickets offers players the chance to take home life-changing payouts, while making real changes to the public works that these institutions support. For many people, supporting these worthy causes is important and they consider playing the lottery a win-win situation.