In the simplest form, lotteries involve bettors writing their names or some other symbol on tickets that are collected and pooled for later shuffling and selection in a drawing. The bettors are rewarded with a prize, usually money. Often, computers record the choices of each bettor (or the number(s) he selects from a list or machine-generated numbers). The winner is determined after the drawings are completed and the results are published. In some countries, lottery games have been organized to award units in a subsidized housing block or kindergarten placements at a reputable public school.
Lotteries are popular in most countries and raise billions of dollars annually. Some of this revenue is donated by states to things like parks, education, and funds for seniors and veterans. However, the odds of winning are very low. Many people believe that playing the lottery will change their lives, but this is not necessarily true.
After the war, as Cohen explains, state governments began seeking ways to expand their social safety nets without enraging anti-tax voters by raising taxes. They turned to lotteries, which, it was argued, were a way to allow the state to take advantage of what everyone knew was going on anyway: illegal gambling. And as the amount of money staked grew, jackpots became increasingly newsworthy. That, in turn, pushed ticket sales.