Drawing of lots in which prizes are distributed to the winners among persons buying a chance. A form of gambling, lottery in its modern form may be traced to 15th-century Europe. The Continental Congress in 1776 voted to establish a lottery to raise funds for the American Revolution. By the mid-19th century, in the wake of abuses by private organizers, U.S. states began passing antilottery laws. An 1878 Supreme Court opinion held that lotteries had “a demoralizing influence upon the people,” and by the 1890s most had been eliminated. A revival began in the mid-1960s; many state governments seeking revenues instituted officially sanctioned, independently audited lotteries. In most such operations, the bettor buys a numbered receipt or writes down his or her number choices, a drawing is held, and the winners identify themselves. The value of the prizes is the amount remaining after expenses and the state's share are deducted from the pool. Winnings are usually subject to taxes. The top prize can grow into the tens of millions, usually causing a buying frenzy as it increases, but the odds against winning remain astronomical.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on lottery, visit

Seen & Heard

What made you look up lottery? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.

Get Our Free Apps
Voice Search, Favorites,
Word of the Day, and More
Join Us on FB & Twitter
Get the Word of the Day and More