Lottery is a gambling game in which numbered tickets are drawn for a prize, such as money. Modern lotteries take many forms. The simplest are the cash prizes offered by state and national lotteries; others involve the selection of jury members, conscription into the military, or commercial promotions in which property is given away by a random procedure. The word lottery is derived from the Latin lotium, meaning “fateful drawing” (Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition).
In order to be considered a lottery, a consideration must be paid for a chance of winning. In the case of most lotteries, the payment is the purchase price of a ticket, but in some cases it can also be a promise to pay a certain sum, for example, for military service.
There are a number of elements common to all lotteries: a pool or collection of tickets and their counterfoils from which the winners are chosen; a drawing, which may take the form of an unbiased mechanical method, such as shaking or tossing, or by a computer program that generates random numbers or symbols; and rules determining the frequency and size of prizes, with a portion normally being used for administrative costs and profits.
If the entertainment value (or other non-monetary benefit) gained from playing a lottery exceeds the disutility of any monetary loss, then the purchase of a ticket or a promise to play is an acceptable choice for a rational person. This rationality argument is similar to that used to justify sin taxes, such as those on alcohol and tobacco.