What is Lottery?


Lottery is a game where players buy tickets and have a chance of winning money. People also use the word to describe a contest where winners are chosen by random. Financial lotteries are games that governments run. People often play for a chance to win huge sums of money, sometimes millions of dollars. Historically, people also used the word to refer to a type of gambling in which prizes were in the form of goods or services rather than money.

The word lottery probably stems from Latin loter, meaning ‘to throw lots’. The earliest record of the word is in 1567 when Queen Elizabeth I organized the first state lottery in England to raise funds for ships, ports and other projects. It was widely believed that lotteries were an alternative to taxes.

One of the reasons why states have pushed so hard for legalized gambling is because they need the money. The prevailing belief is that people are always going to gamble and the state might as well capture some of this revenue without the regressive impact of raising taxes on poorer people.

The other message that Lottery commissions rely on is that playing the lottery is fun, the experience of scratching your ticket is fun. This carries the implicit message that if you lose you’re not really losing, it’s only a little bit of a loss. This messaging obscures the regressivity of Lottery and leads to people spending a large share of their income on these games.