Lottery is a game of chance in which people buy numbered tickets and the numbers are drawn at random to determine the winners. People often play for money or goods, but the lottery can also be used to give away public services such as subsidized housing units or kindergarten placements. Many state governments have a lottery division, which will promote the lottery, select and license retailers, train employees of those retailers to use lottery terminals, sell and redeem tickets, provide prize payouts, assist retailers in promoting their games and verify that they comply with state laws and rules.
In the immediate post-World War II period, states began to organize lotteries in order to expand their array of services without raising taxes on the middle class or the working class. In the beginning, these lotteries brought in only about 2 percent of total state revenue. That was a significant amount, but it wasn’t enough to allow states to reduce their tax rates or to meaningfully bolster government spending.
The origin of the word “lottery” is unclear, but it may be a calque on Middle Dutch loterie, and possibly derived from Old English hlot or hlat (cognate with lot). Lottery can also refer to any activity that involves the distribution of prizes based on chance. For example, the earliest European lotteries were an amusement at dinner parties, with the host giving each guest a piece of paper with a number on it and drawing lots to award fancy dinnerware or other items.