Categories: Gambling

What is a Lottery?

A system for the distribution of prizes through chance. [1] The casting of lots to determine rights and other matters has a long record in human history, with several instances recorded in the Bible. The drawing of tickets for material gains is of more recent origin. Lotteries are most often organized by state governments and provide funds for towns, wars, schools, public works projects, and other socially desirable purposes.

The central element of all lotteries is a pool or collection of tickets and their counterfoils from which winning tokens are chosen by chance. Typically, the tickets are thoroughly mixed by some mechanical means (such as shaking or tossing) or by computer; this is designed to ensure that only chance decides who will win. A percentage of the pool is deducted for costs and profits, and the remainder available to winners. Prize sizes may vary from small to very large. In some cultures, people demand a balance between few large prizes and many smaller ones, although there are also arguments for retaining larger prizes as a way to encourage participation.

While state lotteries are often promoted as a source of “painless” revenue, their operation has often been criticized as fostering gambling addiction and encouraging poor behavior. Moreover, because they are run as a business with the goal of maximizing revenues, advertising necessarily focuses on persuading target groups to spend money on the lottery. Some commentators wonder whether this is an appropriate function for a government.

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