What is a Lottery?


Lottery is a game of chance in which people buy tickets and prizes are awarded to those whose numbers are drawn. It is usually sponsored by a state or organization as a means of raising money.

It has a broad appeal as a form of gambling; it is inexpensive to organize; and it is popular with the general public. It is also a relatively efficient way to raise revenues for a public entity, especially in the case of large jackpots.

In the United States, the first modern lottery was established in New Hampshire in 1964. Currently, 37 states and the District of Columbia have operating lotteries.

The earliest European state-sponsored lotteries were held in the 15th century; the earliest English lottery was in 1569. The word lottery is derived from the Middle Dutch lotinge, meaning “drawing lots.”

While lotteries are generally considered a form of gambling, it is possible for a non-gambling type of lottery to be established as well. For example, military conscription is a form of lottery, as is the selection of jury members from lists of registered voters.

Once established, most state lotteries follow a uniform course of evolution. They begin with a small number of games and gradually increase in size, complexity, and revenue. They also progressively expand their publicity efforts, particularly by generating super-sized jackpots. They thereby attract free advertising and generate increased attention and interest among the general public. It is in this manner that they become a source of tax-funded revenue, and it is in the context of this dynamic that many state politicians develop a propensity to support lottery operations.