What is a Lottery?



A lottery is a gambling game that involves multiple people buying tickets for a small price in order to have a chance of winning a huge sum of money, sometimes running into millions of dollars. Financial lotteries are often run by state or federal governments.


In ancient times, lotteries were common in Europe and the Roman Empire as a means to distribute property. They also served as a means of raising funds for various public projects. The earliest known record of a lottery is a scheme organized by Roman Emperor Augustus, which gave away property and slaves to the citizens of Rome during Saturnalian feasts.

Since the advent of the United States, lotteries have become popular. In 1776 the Continental Congress voted to establish a lottery to raise money for the American Revolution, and over the next 30 years they were used to help fund several American colleges: Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, King’s College (now Columbia), William and Mary, Union, and Brown. They also have been used to raise money for private businesses.