Lottery – A System of Allocating Prizes by Chance


a system of allocating prizes by chance

The casting of lots for decisions and fates has an ancient record (including several instances in the Bible), but lottery-like arrangements involving material gain are more recent. In the modern sense, lotteries are government-run competitions wherein participants pay a small sum to have their name drawn and then win a prize. These prizes can be cash or goods. In the United States, the state governments have legal monopolies on lottery operations, and profits are used exclusively for government purposes.

Typically, people who play the lottery buy tickets for an event that takes place weeks or even months in the future. They often choose numbers that have personal significance, such as birthdays or ages of children and grandchildren. The numbers selected in this way are not very likely to win; the odds of winning are about one in millions.

Lotteries quickly establish broad public support and develop extensive specific constituencies, including convenience store operators (the usual vendors for lotteries); lottery suppliers (heavy contributions by them to state political campaigns are regularly reported); teachers (in those states in which lottery revenues are earmarked for education); and state legislators (who become accustomed to the extra revenue).

Lottery revenues grow dramatically after their introduction but eventually level off and sometimes decline. This is because many players get bored and stop playing. New games must be introduced to keep the momentum going. Lottery companies are always looking for innovative ways to generate interest in their products and increase their revenue base.