What is a Lottery?


Lottery is a form of gambling where people buy tickets and one or more winners are chosen by a process that relies entirely on chance. It is also a way for government to raise funds without raising taxes. In the United States state governments have the exclusive right to operate lotteries and the profits are used for various public uses. As of August 2004 the lottery is legal in forty-two states and the District of Columbia.

In the United States, most people who play the lottery do not view themselves as compulsive gamblers. They play for a little bit of fun and for a fantasy of standing on a stage with an oversized check for millions of dollars. While they do not expect to win, they do hope that they will.

The lottery has become a major source of revenue for many states, providing billions of dollars in income annually. In addition to paying out prizes and covering operating costs, states keep the proceeds from ticket sales. As a result, lottery players as a group contribute billions to government revenues that could be going into savings for retirement or college tuition.

During the 1970s Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin started lotteries. During the 1990s Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Texas joined the list. The earliest lotteries were run by private companies but now most are operated by state governments.