A lottery is a form of gambling in which a prize, usually money, is awarded to the winner by chance. Lotteries are used in many countries to raise money for a variety of purposes. While many people play the lottery for fun, others see it as a way to become rich quickly and avoid paying taxes. In the United States, lottery games contribute billions of dollars to state government coffers each year.
Until recently, the vast majority of state lotteries operated as traditional raffles. The public bought tickets and waited for the drawing, which typically took place weeks or even months in the future. This method of operation produced a predictable pattern: revenues increased dramatically at first, then leveled and eventually declined. To keep revenues up, lotteries introduced new games such as keno and video poker and increased their advertising.
Despite their high prizes, however, these innovations did not reverse the downward trend. Moreover, the success of state lotteries has led to the creation of extensive, specific constituencies, including convenience store owners (lottery tickets are often sold there); lottery suppliers and distributors (heavy contributions from these groups to state political campaigns are regularly reported); teachers (in those states where lottery proceeds are earmarked for education); and state legislators who quickly get accustomed to receiving extra lottery revenues. Consequently, lottery promotion has become a major function of state government, even when it may be at cross-purposes with the interests of poor and problem gamblers.