The Truth About Playing the Lottery


The lottery is one of the world’s oldest forms of gambling, in which a small amount of money is paid in order to have a chance at a larger prize. It is not clear when the first lotteries began, but records exist of towns holding them in the Low Countries by the 15th century for such purposes as raising funds for town fortifications or helping the poor. Lottery games are still popular today, and in the United States state lotteries form multi-state associations to create large jackpots.

In a lottery, bettors write their names or other identification on a ticket which they deposit with the lottery organization to be included in a draw to select winners. They can also buy a numbered receipt and determine later if that number was drawn. In some modern lotteries, bettor numbers are deposited by computer for shuffling and selection in the drawing.

Most people who play the lottery think they have a better chance of winning than they really do. In a recent NORC survey, 86% of those who had played the lottery said they had lost more than they had won. This is a problem for the state-sponsored lotteries, which depend on a core group of regular players to generate most of their revenue.

In the survey, respondents who had played the lottery in the past year were most likely to be high school graduates and males. They were also more likely to live in the South and to have a low income.