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A lottery is a game of chance in which a random drawing results in one or more winners. Prizes may be cash or goods. Many governments ban or regulate lotteries. In some countries, the winnings are taxable. A number of different types of lotteries exist:

Financial lotteries, in which participants bet small sums for a chance to win a larger sum, are the most common form. They can be played by individuals, companies or institutions. These lotteries are a type of gambling and may be addictive.

Other lotteries award prizes that are useful to society, such as housing or kindergarten placements. Examples include the National Basketball Association’s annual draft, in which the 14 teams that did not make the playoffs are randomly selected to receive first choice of college players in the next draft.

The earliest records of a lottery date from the Roman Empire, when tickets were used as prizes for Saturnalian dinner parties. By the 15th century, a variety of towns held public lotteries to raise funds for town walls and fortifications. Lotteries were also popular in the English colonies during the French and Indian Wars, financing roads, churches, canals, bridges and colleges. The first modern national lottery was launched in England in 1621, but it was banned for a while afterward. By 1826, the British government and licensed promoters operated 200 lotteries in the United Kingdom. In addition, private lotteries were common in Europe and the Americas.