Lottery is a series of drawings that determine the winners of prizes ranging from cash to goods. Modern lotteries are government-sponsored games where payment of a small sum of money, work, or property can result in a large reward. State and privately run lotteries are a common source of funds for public utilities, such as highways, hospitals, and schools. In addition, they are a popular source of funds for charitable and educational purposes, including college scholarships and athletic teams.
In the 17th century it was common in the Netherlands to organize public lotteries to raise money for a variety of purposes, and a lottery became known as “a painless form of taxation.” The Dutch state-owned Staatsloterij is the oldest running lottery (1726). During the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin used a lottery to raise funds to buy cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British. Privately organized lotteries also became popular and helped to finance many of the first American colleges, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, King’s College (now Columbia), William and Mary, Union, and Brown.
Most state governments enact laws regulating their lotteries, and delegate them to a lottery board or commission for administrative oversight. In addition to managing the lotteries, these divisions select and license retailers, train retailers to use lottery terminals, sell and redeem tickets, promote state-sponsored games, pay high-tier prizes, and ensure that retailers and players comply with all lottery rules and regulations.
Lottery is often viewed as a harmless and fun way to dream about life-changing riches. Yet, a closer look at the numbers suggests that lottery participants come disproportionately from middle-income neighborhoods and are far more likely to be men than women.