What is a Lottery?


A lottery is a gambling game in which tickets are sold and numbers drawn for prizes. It also refers to an activity whose outcome depends on luck or chance: They considered combat duty a lottery. — Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition. Copyright 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Used with permission.

States rely on lotteries to raise money for a variety of state-sponsored programs, including education and infrastructure projects. However, lottery revenues are not as transparent as a regular tax. Consumers may not be aware that a respectable percentage of ticket sales goes toward prize winnings, reducing the percentage available for state revenue and squeezing programs such as education.

State-run lotteries are usually overseen by a state board or commission, and regulated in the same way as commercial casinos. The commission will select and train retailers to use lottery terminals, promote the games, pay high-tier prizes, and make sure that the game operates in accordance with state law.

While supporters tout lotteries as a painless alternative to raising taxes, critics charge that they skirt real taxation and are regressive on the poor. Moreover, state costs such as those related to running the lottery are often hidden from consumers.