Lottery is a form of gambling in which numbers are drawn for prizes. It is usually taxable if the winnings are over a set amount, depending on the country and state where it was held. Most lottery expenditures go to various institutions, primarily public school systems. Throughout history, governments have varied in their attitudes towards the lottery; some outlaw it entirely, while others endorse it and organize national or state-run lotteries.
In the United States, state-run lotteries raise billions in revenue every year. While there’s no denying that state budgets would be much tighter without these revenues, I think the public deserves a more nuanced message about how these lotteries are supposed to help.
I’ve talked to a lot of people who play the lottery regularly, and they’ll tell me that even when they lose, they feel like they’re doing their civic duty and helping the state. That’s a pretty hard sell, especially considering the percentage of total state revenue that these lotteries make up.
The word “lottery” derives from the Dutch noun “lot” (fate or fate), which may be a calque on Middle Dutch lotterij or löttere (“action of drawing lots”), itself perhaps a calque on Old French loterie. The earliest recorded European lotteries to offer tickets for money prizes were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century, where towns used them to raise funds for town fortifications and to aid the poor. They became widely popular and were hailed as a painless alternative to taxes.