What is a Lottery?


A lottery is a form of gambling in which a prize, often money, is awarded to people who pay a fee or consideration. There are many different kinds of lotteries, including those used to decide military conscription, commercial promotions in which property is given away by a random process, and state-sponsored contests for jury selection or election of officials. Some modern lottery criticisms cite specific features of the operation that are alleged to promote addictive gambling behavior, have a regressive impact on lower-income groups, and otherwise run at cross-purposes with a state’s duty to protect public welfare.

The first lottery in the West was established by the Continental Congress to raise funds for the Revolutionary War; Alexander Hamilton wrote that “it is a natural and reprehensible human appetite to be willing to hazard a trifling sum for the chance of great gain.” Privately organized lotteries were also common throughout colonial America as means of financing such projects as roads, canals, churches, libraries, schools, and colleges.