Lottery is an arrangement in which prizes (typically money or goods) are allocated by a process that relies wholly on chance. It is different from gambling, in which a consideration of some kind must be paid for the opportunity to participate in the lottery. Modern examples include military conscription, commercial promotions in which property is given away by a random procedure, and the selection of jury members from lists of registered voters. Some states have laws governing the conduct of lottery-type arrangements, while others do not.
The concept of the lottery is remarkably old: Moses was instructed in the Bible to distribute land by lot; Roman emperors used it as an entertainment for their guests at Saturnalian feasts; and the Chinese Book of Songs (2nd millennium BC) refers to “keno slips”. The first state-authorized public lotteries were created in the United States during the early 1780s.
A modern lottery consists of several prize categories, usually including one or more large prizes and a number of smaller ones. A prize pool is usually determined before the lottery draws, though it can also be adjusted during the course of the draw by reducing or increasing the number and value of smaller prizes, or by adjusting the percentage of the total prize allocation for each category.
People purchase tickets for the hope that they will win. This hope, irrational and mathematically impossible as it may be, provides value for many ticket-buyers. It is this value, rather than the monetary rewards of a jackpot victory, that drives lottery revenues and keeps games alive.