What is a Lottery?


A lottery is a game in which players pay for tickets, select groups of numbers from those that are randomly spit out by machines, and then win prizes if their numbers match those drawn by the machine. Lottery is one of the most popular games in the world and it is a highly profitable industry. Most states have a state lottery and the profits are earmarked for public purposes. Most state governments have monopoly rights and prohibit commercial lotteries that would compete with their own.

In the United States, a state legislature passes a law to establish a lottery; chooses a government agency or a public corporation to run the lottery; often starts with a modest number of relatively simple games; and then, as revenues grow, expands the lotteries by adding more games. The overall operations are overseen by the state lottery commission or a government agency, and the authority to investigate fraud is often vested in the attorney general’s office, the state police department, or a state gaming control board.

Most state lotteries have been around for centuries, and the founding fathers were big fans of them, with Benjamin Franklin organizing a lottery in Philadelphia to help fund a militia for defense against French marauders and John Hancock running a lottery to raise money to rebuild Boston’s Faneuil Hall. The lottery was a common form of financing in colonial America, and it played a key role in financing private and public ventures, including canals, roads, churches, colleges, schools, and public works projects, such as the construction of the Mountain Road in Virginia.