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What is a Lottery?


The chance to win a prize (such as money or goods) by the drawing of lots. A lottery is generally regulated by the government and may be outlawed in some countries or states. A lottery is a form of gambling, but it differs from a sweepstakes in that people purchase chances to win rather than paying for the privilege. The word is derived from Italian lotto, and the root probably is Germanic; compare Old English hlot and Middle Dutch lutherje. Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition. Copyright 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

In modern times, the term is usually used for a system of raising money by selling tickets with numbers on them. The numbers are then chosen by chance, and the people who have those numbers on their tickets win a prize. Other types of lottery are used for military conscription, commercial promotions in which property is given away by chance, and the selection of jury members from lists of registered voters.

Many people try to increase their odds by buying multiple tickets, or by purchasing tickets at special stores that sell them. These strategies may not improve your chances, but they can be fun to experiment with. A significant portion of lottery revenues are used to fund public education, and a variety of other institutions, including religious and charitable organizations. Each state has its own laws governing lotteries. Some states even establish lottery divisions that select and license retailers, train employees to operate lottery terminals, promote lottery games, pay prizes to players, and ensure that retailers and players comply with the laws.