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A lottery is one of the aleatory contracts and is commonly defined as a distribution of prizes by lot or by chance. Each person who joins in the lottery buys a numbered ticket and at a certain fixed time lots are cast by some method, as by drawing the numbers out of a hollow wheel, to decide to what numbers the prize or prizes are to be assigned. Some winners get much more than they contributed, some less, while others get nothing. It is obviously a kind of gambling if considered from the point of view of the contributories; by the directors it is sometimes used as a means of raising money. Morally it is objectionable if carried to excess as it tends to develop the gambling spirit and distract people from earning a livelihood by honest work. However, if there is no fraud of any sort in the transaction, and if there is some sort of proportion between the price of a ticket and the value of a chance of gaining a prize, a lottery cannot be condemned as in itself immoral. In the United States they were formerly permitted, but in 1890 Congress forbade the mails to be used to promote any lottery enterprise, and now they are generally prohibited by state legislation. In England lotteries have long been forbidden by law unless conducted by art unions carrying on business by royal charter or under a constitution and rules approved by the Privy Council.
BALLERINI, Opus Morale, III (Prato, 1892); GÉNICOT, Theologia Moralis (Brussels, 1909); SLATER, A Manual of Moral Theology, I (New York, 1908).