The History of Lottery


Lottery is a form of gambling in which people pay a small amount of money for the chance to win a large sum of money. Many states offer a state lottery, and some countries have national lotteries. Some of the prize winnings are given to charities, while others are used for public works projects. The history of lotteries has been largely a matter of politics, and many people have argued in favor or against them. Some have also criticized the methods used by some promoters.

In modern times, most lotteries use a computer system to record purchases and to print tickets, but the basic procedure is unchanged: players submit ticket counterfoils with numbers or symbols to be randomly selected. The pool of tickets or counterfoils is thoroughly mixed by some mechanical means—usually shaking or tossing—then ranked in order of their numbers. The winning tickets are then extracted. Computers are becoming more common for this purpose, because of their ability to store information about large numbers of tickets and their symbols or numbers, as well as to generate random rankings.

Aside from monetary gains, the entertainment value of lottery play may provide a positive utility for an individual, such as that gained by attending a sporting event or concert. This additional non-monetary utility may outweigh the disutility of a monetary loss, thereby making purchasing a ticket a rational decision for an individual.

State governments and licensed promoters have been using lotteries to raise funds for many public ventures, from a bridge repair in the Low Countries in the 15th century to raising money for municipal repairs and help for the poor in the American colonies during the American Revolution in the 1740s and early 1700s.