Lottery is a type of gambling in which a random drawing determines the winners. Prizes can range from small cash sums to valuable goods or services. Lotteries are generally conducted by governments or licensed promoters for a variety of purposes, such as raising money for public works projects.
Historically, the first lottery-type games were in the Low Countries in the 15th century when towns used them to raise funds for town fortifications and to help the poor. In the early American colonies, colonists and Benjamin Franklin supported lottery-type activities for a variety of public causes including paying for a battery of cannons for defense of Philadelphia and rebuilding Faneuil Hall in Boston.
In most large-scale state-based lotteries, each dollar spent on tickets entitles the holder to choose a number or set of numbers in a drawing held periodically to determine the winners. Typically, the higher the ticket price, the more numbers that can be chosen and the larger the jackpot value.
In the United States, the largest state-run lotteries are in New York, Massachusetts, and Texas. In 2003, these three states accounted for 28% of the national lottery sales. Tickets are sold at various retailers, such as convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants and bars, service stations, churches and fraternal organizations, and even some newsstands. Retailers are encouraged to advertise the availability of lottery tickets in an attempt to increase sales. Approximately half of all retailers sell lottery tickets. Surveys show that lottery participation is disproportionately higher for lower-income, less educated, and nonwhite participants. Almost one in eight Americans buys a ticket at least once a year.