A lottery is a form of gambling in which prizes are distributed among persons who buy a chance to win. The word derives from the Dutch noun lot (fate) and the English verb to lot (to decide, determine). Lotteries have a long history. During the 17th century they were widely used in the Netherlands and other European countries to raise money for poor people and public uses; they were hailed as a “painless form of taxation”.
Most states have their own state-run lottery programs, though some rely on private companies to administer their lotteries. In either case, the basic operation of a lottery is the same everywhere: the state establishes a legal monopoly; sets up an agency or public corporation to manage the lottery; begins with a modest number of fairly simple games; and then, as pressure for new revenues grows, expands its operations – especially in the form of adding new games.
Obviously, the success of a lottery depends on the number of people who play it. Many people have a fundamental impulse to gamble, and for some the lottery is their last, best, or only opportunity to change their lives. Others simply want to win a big prize. The lottery draws billions of dollars in revenue each year and is considered a major part of the U.S. economy. But does promoting and running a lottery serve the interests of the general public? In particular, does it promote gambling in an era of anti-tax sentiment?