1. A gambling game or method of raising money in which tickets are sold and prizes are won by a random drawing.
The lottery has a long history in human society, although it was not usually used for material gain. Its use for distributing wealth has been more recent. The earliest recorded public lottery was for a unit of subsidized housing in Rome, and the first lottery to distribute prize money was held in 1466 in Bruges for city repairs. It became commonplace in Europe in the 17th century, where it was used for a variety of purposes, including collecting money for poor people and for public usages. It was also a popular form of collecting taxes in an anti-tax era, as it was widely viewed as a “painless tax.”
Lotteries have gained wide acceptance and popularity in most states in the United States because they are able to raise large amounts of money with relatively little effort. Lotteries are also popular because of the perception that they benefit a specific public good, such as education. They also provide an attractive source of revenue in an era when state governments are struggling to balance their budgets and reduce expenditures.
However, the reliance on lottery revenues has resulted in numerous policy and moral problems, such as compulsive gambling and its alleged regressive impact on lower-income communities. Lotteries have also become a classic example of how public policy is developed in piecemeal and incremental fashion, with little overall control or direction.