What is a Lottery?

A form of gambling in which numbered tickets are sold and prizes are awarded to the holders. Prizes are usually a fixed amount of money but may also be goods or services. Some governments outlaw lotteries while others endorse them and organize a state or national lottery. Many states also regulate them, including prohibiting sales to minors and requiring vendors to be licensed.

Lotteries are a very popular form of entertainment, with a great deal of public support. In fact, almost all states now have a lottery. But this popularity has produced a second set of issues related to the way the lottery operates as a business and how it promotes itself to potential players. It has raised questions about whether lotteries are run at cross-purposes with the public interest, focusing on persuading people to spend their money on something they might not otherwise do.

The legal definition of a lottery consists of three elements: payment, chance and prize. Payment can be cash or another commodity such as merchandise, and chances can include a drawing or matching numbers. Prizes can be anything from cash to jewelry to a new car. Federal law prohibits the mailing or transportation in interstate commerce of promotions for the lottery, but otherwise, any of these elements is sufficient to create a lottery. State laws generally delegate authority to a lottery board or commission, which will select and license retailers, train employees of those retailers in using the lottery terminals, verify winners, and pay high-tier prizes. Other responsibilities include the selection of lottery game types, establishing game rules and procedures, and regulating how games are promoted.