The History of the Lottery


The lottery is a form of gambling that distributes prizes based on a random draw. In the United States, state governments regulate the lottery and set its rules. Prizes can range from small items to large sums of money. Participants pay a fee, select groups of numbers or have machines randomly spit out tickets, and then win prizes if their ticket matches the winning number(s). The term lottery derives from the Dutch verb lot (to throw) and may be a pengeluaran hk calque on Middle French loterie “action of drawing lots for a prize.”

The earliest recorded lotteries to offer tickets for sale with cash prizes date back to the Low Countries in the 15th century; early town records from Ghent, Utrecht, and Bruges mention public lotteries for raising funds to build walls and town fortifications. Benjamin Franklin used a lottery to raise funds to purchase cannons for the defense of Philadelphia and George Washington sponsored a lottery in 1768 to finance a road across the Blue Ridge Mountains.

In the years after World War II, many states adopted lotteries to help finance expanding government programs without imposing especially onerous taxes on their middle-class and working-class constituents. These policies were a response to the growing realization that the post-war boom era, in which states could easily afford a broad range of public services and programs, was slowly coming to an end.

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