A lottery is a game of chance in which bettors place stakes for a prize. Typically, the prize is money or goods. A lottery may be a public or private enterprise. Public lotteries are usually regulated and organized by governments. Private lotteries are usually not regulated and may be conducted by organizations such as churches, schools, professional associations, or social clubs. The prize fund may be a fixed amount of cash or goods, or it may be a percentage of the total receipts. The latter method entails some risk for the organizer, but it allows for more frequent winners and is preferred by many players.

The characters in Jackson’s short story assemble for an annual village lottery, which they assume is practiced to ensure a good harvest, since the local proverb is “Lottery in June; corn be heavy soon.” This event is also an occasion for gossip and recrimination.

In modern lotteries, the bettors write their names and numbers on a slip of paper or another medium. The tickets are then deposited with the lottery organizers for later shuffling and selection in a drawing. The bettor can be paid in the form of cash or goods, or he or she can choose to retain the ticket and try again next time. The winnings are often shared among the bettors, though in some cases a single winner is declared. In addition to the prizes, lottery funds can be used to finance public infrastructure projects such as roads and canals.