What is a Lottery?


A lottery is a form of gambling where people place bets on a game. The winners of the game are selected by a random drawing. Financial lotteries are often run by state or federal governments.

History and Origin

The earliest recorded public lottery was held in Rome during Augustus Caesar’s reign to raise money for repairs to the city. In the 15th century, towns in the Low Countries such as Ghent, Utrecht, and Bruges held public lottery games to raise funds for town defenses or help the poor.

Throughout the centuries, governments have used lotteries to raise revenue for wars, colleges, and public works projects. In addition to generating revenue, lotteries are also a means of distributing prizes.

In the United States, state and federal lotteries are a major source of income for many governments. In fiscal year 2006, Americans wagered more than $44 billion in lotteries, a 6.6% increase over the previous fiscal year.

The Growth of Lotteries

Several factors have contributed to the growth of state and national lottery revenues, including large populations of players who are willing to place bets on the chance of winning a prize; the growing popularity of lottery-sponsored promotions featuring popular goods; and the development of specific constituencies that promote lottery revenues, such as convenience store operators.

The success of the New Hampshire state lottery, which began in 1964, led to the establishment of lotteries in other states. By the 1970s, twelve other states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont) had started their own lotteries. Currently, 37 states and the District of Columbia operate lotteries.