What is a Lottery?


A lottery is a game in which people purchase chances to win a prize based on the drawing of lots. The prize ranges from small items to large sums of money. The games are typically regulated by government authorities to ensure fairness and legality. Lotteries have a long history, but the modern form of lottery has emerged only in recent times. The drawing of lots for a prize has been used in a variety of ways throughout human history, from the casting of lots to determine fates in biblical times to modern commercial promotions and political elections (though these are not usually considered lotteries under the strict definition).

The lottery has broad popular appeal. Surveys show that many Americans play the lottery at least once a year. The lottery has been an especially important source of revenue for state governments. In an era of anti-tax sentiment, many states have come to depend on lottery revenues and are under pressure to increase them.

In the United States, state lotteries have become widely established since New Hampshire introduced the first modern incarnation in 1964. The lotteries vary in structure and operation, but most have evolved along similar lines: the state sets up a monopoly for itself; establishes a government agency or public corporation to run the lottery; begins operations with a modest number of relatively simple games; and, under constant pressure for additional revenues, progressively expands the size and complexity of the lottery, particularly in the form of adding new games.