What is a Lottery?

A lottery is a game where people buy tickets with numbers on them and hope that their numbers are drawn in the drawing. The prizes can be big money, but they can also be smaller. Lotteries have been around for a long time, and they can help governments raise money.

Lottery Statistics

The sales of state and national lottery tickets increased over 6.6% in fiscal year 2003 (July 2002 to June 2003) and were steady between 1998 and 2003. In 2003, Americans wagered $44 billion in lottery games.

Advertising & Marketing

Lotteries promote their games by providing free publicity to the prizes on television, radio, and print media. The ads often feature famous celebrities, sports teams, and cartoon characters as well as products from the sponsors. These merchandising deals benefit the brands and the lotteries, but they may not always be in the best interests of the public.


The revenues generated by a lottery typically increase dramatically in the first few years after it is introduced, but then level off and begin to decline. This is called “boredom.” To maintain or increase revenues, lotteries introduce new games.


Lottery laws vary from country to country and from state to state, but the law usually requires that the proceeds be used for a specific purpose. Some states use the profits to fund education, others to pay off debt, and still others to support other projects.

The earliest recorded lotteries were held in the Low Countries, where they raised funds for town fortifications and for the poor. During the 15th century, King Francis I of France organized one to help finance his campaigns in Italy and to provide funds for the poor. He was unsuccessful, but the practice was eventually embraced by other European countries.