The History of the Lottery

A lottery is a gambling game in which the player pays a small sum of money to purchase a ticket for a drawing that determines the winner of a prize. The game is played in a number of countries throughout the world, and is considered to be one of the most popular forms of gambling.

The origins of lotteries date back to the Chinese Han dynasty between 205 and 187 BC. They were used by the government to raise funds for a variety of projects. They later became common in Europe and the United States.

Early American lottery advocates included George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, both of whom promoted the use of lottery games to fund public works projects. They were also used to finance major military conflicts, including the Revolutionary War.

The establishment of state lotteries has followed a similar pattern. A state first legislates a monopoly on the sale of tickets and then establishes a state agency or public corporation to run the lottery (as opposed to licensing a private firm).

Revenues typically expand dramatically after the lottery’s introduction, then level off or begin to decline. This occurrence creates an ongoing need to introduce new games, in order to maintain or increase revenues.

Once established, state lotteries develop extensive constituencies of players and suppliers. These include convenience store owners; vendors who sell the tickets; teachers in those states where revenues are earmarked for education; and legislators who quickly become accustomed to the additional revenue that the lottery brings into their state.