What is a Lottery?


A game in which numbered tickets are sold and prizes awarded based on chance selections made by the drawing of lots. Also, any activity involving a lottery, such as filling a sports team from among equally competitive applicants or placing children in a specific school.

Although the casting of lots for decisions and fates has a long record in human history (and several examples in the Bible), lotteries as games in which money is awarded based on random selections are relatively recent. In modern times, state governments have adopted them for a variety of purposes, including tax relief and public education. Lotteries are usually characterized by broad popular support and substantial revenue. They often win approval even in the face of serious fiscal difficulties because, as a general rule, the proceeds are earmarked for specific public benefits, such as education.

In the United States, the lottery system is run by a state agency or by a private corporation licensed to operate it. It typically begins operations with a small number of fairly simple games and, as demand increases, progressively expands in size and complexity. State governments take a substantial percentage of the revenues, which are used for everything from infrastructure projects to gambling addiction initiatives.

In addition, the lottery system has a built-in constituency in the form of convenience store operators who sell tickets; suppliers, who are heavily favored by state political campaigns; and the people who play the games regularly. These groups often form an effective lobbying coalition in support of expansion and new game development. They are also adept at using marketing tactics to encourage greater frequency of playing and higher ticket sales.

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