From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 [gcide]:
1. A scheme for the distribution of prizes by lot or chance; esp., a gaming scheme in which one or more tickets bearing particular numbers draw prizes, and the rest of the tickets are blanks. Fig.: An affair of chance.
Note: The laws of the United States and of most of the States make private lotteries illegal, except in certain circumstances for charitable institutions; however, many of the states now conduct lotteries tehmselves as a revenue source. [1913 Webster +PJC]
From WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006) [wn]:
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