What is a Lottery?

Lottery is a scheme for the distribution of prizes, especially money, by means of the drawing of lots. A lottery is usually operated by a state or other organization. It sells tickets, which are numbered and have a unique symbol or other mark printed on them. The lottery collects the ticket numbers and symbols or marks, which are subsequently drawn in a random process to determine the winners. Many modern lotteries are computerized, making it possible to record the identities of bettors and the amounts staked by each.

A common feature of lotteries is the use of fractional tickets. These are divided into a number of parts, each part bearing a unique symbol or marking and priced at less than the total cost of a full ticket. A system of hierarchy, such as a chain of stores, is employed to pass these fractional tickets up through the lottery organization until they are “banked” and eligible for selection in the next lottery drawing.

Although the casting of lots has a long history in human societies, the establishment of lotteries for material gain is much more recent. The first recorded public lotteries were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century for municipal repairs and to help the poor. Since then, they have become a major source of revenue for governments throughout the world. In the United States, a large proportion of public works projects and most college buildings owe their existence to lottery proceeds.