What is the Lottery?

What is the Lottery?


The lottery is a game of chance in which multiple people buy tickets for a small fee in order to have a chance at winning a large sum of money, sometimes running into millions of dollars. Lotteries are run by state or federal governments.

History and Definitions:

The first state-sponsored lottery appears to have been held in the 15th century in Europe, with towns attempting to raise money for fortification or aiding the poor. The word lottery may have come from a Middle Dutch term for “drawing lots,” or a calque on the French word loterie, which was reportedly used to mean “action of drawing lots.”

A lottery is a low-odds game in which a random drawing selects winners among the ticket holders. It is a popular form of gambling.

In many countries, state lotteries are an important source of revenue. They often win broad public approval, especially in times of economic stress and the prospect of tax increases or cuts to public programs.

They also develop extensive specific constituencies, including convenience store operators (in states in which lotteries are popular), lottery suppliers, teachers, and politicians, who quickly become accustomed to the extra revenue.

The main argument used in every state to promote the adoption of a lottery is its value as a source of “painless” revenue: players voluntarily spending their money for the benefit of the public good. In the words of Clotfelter and Cook, “lotteries are an effective way for states to obtain revenue without raising taxes.”