A lottery is a game of chance wherein a prize is offered to individuals who purchase tickets. The prize money varies and may be a small cash sum or goods such as cars or houses. Some lotteries are run by governments while others are private. The earliest recorded lotteries were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century to raise funds for town fortifications and to help the poor. In the modern world, the largest public lotteries are in the United States. Americans spend over $80 billion a year on lottery tickets.
In the story, a woman named Tessie Hutchinson wins a large sum of money in the lottery. Her family and friends congratulate her, but then she starts to have problems. Her new wealth brings unexpected visitors, including her ex-husband and a neighbor who has an overabundance of cats. The story reveals how easy it is for people to judge others based on their appearances and how the dynamics of a group can lead to a disastrous outcome.
The lottery is a popular pastime in America, with one in eight Americans buying a ticket each week. But, the distribution of lottery players is skewed by race, education and income levels. Those with lower incomes and less education are disproportionately more likely to play. This regressivity is why many lotteries focus on two main messages: the first, to promote the idea that playing the lottery is fun, and the second, to downplay its regressiveness.