What is a Lottery?


A lottery is a form of gambling in which a person bets on a set of numbers. Usually, lottery games offer large cash prizes and are organized so that a portion of the profits goes to charity.

History of the lottery

The earliest recorded lotteries were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century, with towns raising funds to build town fortifications and help the poor. A record from 1445 at L’Ecluse in what is now Belgium shows that a lottery was held for this purpose, with tickets costing 1737 florins (worth about $170,000 in 2014).

Proponents of lotteries argue that they are a source of “painless” revenue: that is, players voluntarily spend their money for the benefit of the public good rather than being taxed on their expenditures. In addition, they see lotteries as a way for politicians to obtain revenue without having to raise taxes or cut government services.

State lotteries generally operate under a monopoly, and progressively expand the number and variety of games offered. This expansion is driven by pressure for additional revenues, especially when state budgets are under stress.

A lottery usually requires that a player purchase a ticket for each game he or she wishes to play. In order to win a prize, the player must match all six numbers in the game. In many modern games, the winning numbers are selected by a computer. The winner must then indicate the number of the winning ticket on a playslip.