What is a Lottery?


A lottery is a game in which participants buy tickets for the chance to win a prize, such as money or goods. In the US, state governments often authorize and regulate lotteries. They typically delegate the management of the games to a lottery division that will select and license retailers, train employees of those retailers to use lottery terminals, sell and redeem tickets, and pay high-tier prizes. These divisions will also help retailers promote the games and make sure that both players and retailers comply with lottery laws.

The practice of making decisions and determining fates by the casting of lots has a long history (including several instances in the Bible). The first recorded public lotteries to distribute prize money were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century, for such purposes as raising funds for municipal repairs, town fortifications, and the relief of the poor.

The principal argument made by state officials for adopting a lottery is that it is a source of “painless revenue”—a way to raise significant amounts of money without having to increase taxes. This argument has proven to be quite effective, especially in times of fiscal stress. However, research has found that the objective fiscal circumstances of a state have no significant effect on the extent to which people support lotteries. The popularity of the lottery has more to do with voters’ inclinations toward gambling and their desire to have more of it than with the actual need of a government program.