What is a Lottery?


Lottery is a gambling game that is run by government-approved organizations and regulated by law. It involves paying a small sum of money for the chance to win a prize, which may be anything from money to jewelry. Federal statutes prohibit the mailing or transportation in interstate and foreign commerce of promotions for lotteries or the sale of lottery tickets themselves.

The word “lottery” is derived from the Old French term loterie, from lot “divided, share, reward, prize” and fertér “to divide, gather,” from Middle Dutch lofte, from Middle Low German hlot, from Frankish *lotiaz, from Proto-Germanic *lotiz, from Latin lotus, plural of lotus (see flower). The term was first used in English in the 16th century, and was applied to public contests of chance to determine the winners of a public fund or grant.

A major element of most lotteries is the drawing, a procedure for determining the winning tickets or symbols. The ticket counterfoils are thoroughly mixed by some mechanical means, such as shaking or tossing, so that a random selection of the winning tickets or symbols may be made from among all tickets purchased for a given drawing. The drawing is sometimes automated by the use of computers.

In addition to the drawing, there are rules governing the frequency and size of the prizes. A percentage of the pool is normally deducted for costs and profits, and the remainder is available to the winners. In some countries, winners can choose between an annuity payment and a lump sum. The choice depends on the winner’s expectation of the time value of the funds, and on tax laws.