What is a Lottery?

A game in which numbered tickets are sold for a chance to win a prize, such as money or goods. Lotteries may be run by states, private organizations, or charitable groups. A percentage of the pool is typically allocated for prizes, with another portion going toward organizing and promoting the lottery. The remaining amount is usually used for administrative costs and profits. The term derives from the drawing of lots to decide ownership or other rights, a practice that is recorded in many ancient documents, including the Bible.

Since 1964, 44 states and the District of Columbia have adopted lotteries. The six that don’t—Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Utah, and Nevada—have varying reasons for their absence: religious objections (for example, Mormons don’t believe in gambling); the need to protect state governments from competition; and a lack of fiscal urgency.

For those who play, lotteries can be addictive, especially for those who are super-users—people who say they play more than once a week. These people make up a tiny slice of the population, but their purchases are critical to the success of the lotteries they play in. As a recent HuffPost Highline article noted, these frequent players are mostly middle-aged or older and overwhelmingly male. In fact, they represent nearly 70 percent of the lottery’s revenue. Yet they are also the most likely to report problems with their gambling. Whether these problems are caused by excessive playing, addiction, or simply poor choices, the effects can be profound.

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