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What is a Lottery?


A gambling game or method of raising money in which tickets are sold for a chance to win prizes determined by random selection. Typically, a percentage of ticket sales is deducted for expenses and profits, leaving the remainder for prize winners. Also called lottery, chance game, and luck game. An activity or event whose outcome seems to be determined by chance: He considered combat duty a lottery.

Lotteries have a long history and were often used in colonial America to fund a variety of projects. Benjamin Franklin organized a lottery to raise funds for cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British. George Washington sponsored one to alleviate crushing debts.

In general, state-sponsored lotteries are viewed as painless forms of taxation. This helps them gain and retain public approval. However, a number of issues persist, including the problem of compulsive gambling and the regressive impact on lower-income groups.

Until recently, most lotteries were little more than traditional raffles. Participants bought tickets for a future drawing, often weeks or even months away. But innovations in the 1970s transformed the industry. New games were introduced, allowing lottery participants to buy instant tickets for smaller prizes. Revenues expanded rapidly at first, but then began to level off and even decline. Attempts to keep revenues growing have resulted in the introduction of more games and aggressive promotion efforts. These efforts may also contribute to a sense of boredom that is perceived by some lottery players.