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There’s virtually no form of gambling that is more ubiquitous or easier to play than the lottery. Everyone has dreamed about winning millions in a fabulous jackpot at least once, no matter how long the odds may be. And while gaming industries aren’t equally welcome in all parts of the world, even many places that otherwise prohibit gambling allow for a state-run lottery to raise money for education, charity, or other purposes.

This might also be one form of gambling that you’d assume wouldn’t benefit much from the Internet. After all, isn’t it easy enough to head down to your local gas station or grocery store and buy tickets if you want them? Surprisingly, however, there are many jurisdictions who now offer online lotto ticket sales, allowing players to subscribe to a purchase plan or just get the occasional ticket from the comfort of their homes. In addition, many sites have been formed to help players get tickets in lotteries outside of their home countries, or to take part in larger groups that will split the winnings should any of them hit it big.

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The Evolution of Lotteries

Lotteries have been around for thousands of years. Keno – essentially a form of the lottery – was played in China at least 1,800 years ago, and drawings were known to be held in the Roman Empire, with at least one series of contests being utilized to pay for repairs to the city of Rome during the reign of Augustus Caesar.

Lotteries continued to go in and out of fashion through the centuries. In the United States, they were actually quite common during and after the Revolutionary War, and continued to be so through much of the 1800s. However, laws against all gambling would be passed in America during this period, and many other countries had similarly little tolerance for gaming, so the practice diminished considerably heading into the 20th century.

Modern lotto drawings began to reappear in the middle of the last century. Many municipalities, states, and countries found that they could offer this very limited form of betting in order to raise funds for municipal projects. In the United States, for instance, the first state to offer a modern lottery was New Hampshire in 1964 (though the territory of Puerto Rico had done so 30 years earlier). Seeing their success, many other states followed, and today, more than 40 states offer some form of drawings. Most of these lottery programs were initially founded with the intention of funding educational projects; in many cases, however, some or all of the money has been diverted to the general funds of these states or to other causes.

In an effort to attract even more players, many states took the step of combining their efforts in order to offer bigger and more attractive prizes. Two of these efforts were particularly successful and now span nearly the entire country: Powerball and Mega Millions. In fact, Powerball set the record for the largest lotto jackpot in history in early 2016, when three winners split a jackpot of approximately $1.6 billion.

Of course, lotteries don’t just exist in in the United States. In fact, the lotto is one of the most popular forms of gaming in the world, with even many nations that otherwise authorize casinos or sports betting allowing the state to run charitable drawings with large prizes. Some of the most notable worldwide lotto games include Australia’s OZ Lotto, China’s Welfare Lottery (as well as the China Sports Lottery), the EuroMillions jackpot that is offered in many European nations (including the UK, France, Spain, Switzerland, and Ireland), Mega-Sena in Brazil, and Italy’s SuperEnalotto.

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Playing the Lottery Online

Most of the online gambling explosion of the Internet age has been centered on games that were traditionally inconvenient for many people to play on a daily basis: in other words, the kinds of games that are normally found in casinos. That means slots, table games, and poker, as well as sports betting in many parts of the world.

But lotteries were not left behind in this process, at least not for long. While it will be a long time before Internet lotto sales eclipse those at land-based sellers (if it ever happens), most governments that offer the games now have websites that – at the very least – contain information about the games you can play and list the results of recent drawings.

Increasingly, many of these sites will also allow you to purchase tickets for their drawings right from your computer. A handful of American states (including Georgia and Illinois) allow at least some games to be sold online, and the same is the case in many countries, such as the UK National Lottery.

Exactly how this works varies depending on the jurisdiction you are in, though the procedures typically have a lot in common. First, you’ll need to register for an account on the site in question. In most cases, you may have to go through some steps to confirm your identity. In the United States, you may also need to be within a state’s borders to purchase tickets in their drawings online, as this is often a condition of online gambling in that country. For instance, Illinois’ site only allows residents of the state who are physically located within the state borders to play online.

Next, you’ll have to find the game you want to play. Once you’ve chosen a particular contest, you’ll usually have the option to either select your own numbers or receive a “quick pick.” If you’re not familiar with that term, it simply means that you’ll be assigned a random set of numbers: and in a game of chance, that’s as good a way to pick a winner as any.

Many sites will also give you the option of purchasing a subscription to a game. This allows you to play the same ticket in numerous drawings without having to buy it again each day or week. Basically, this is a convenience service: if you know you’re a regular player, you can prepay for varying numbers of drawings in order to make sure you don’t miss one. You might even be able to get a slight discount for buying so many tickets up front!

Finally, you’ll need to pay for your tickets. This is an area in which there typically aren’t as many options as at an online casino, for instance. Typical sites will allow you to purchase with a credit or debit card, but beyond that, acceptance of other payment methods is very hit or miss. In some places, however, direct debit from a bank account is also supported.

Syndicates and Ticket Buyers

The Internet hasn’t just made it easier to buy tickets through standard channels. It has also afforded players the chance to take advantage of some unique opportunities that may not have existed for them in previous eras.

One example is the ability to have other people buy tickets for you in lotteries you might not otherwise have the opportunity to play. You may have heard about this phenomenon in the news: there was a famous incident in which a person in Iraq won $6.4 million in a lottery run by the state of Oregon, a result that raised plenty of eyebrows in the United States.

But these arrangements have been available to interested parties for many years now. There are multiple sites that will purchase tickets on your behalf for a small premium, allowing you to potentially win prizes from just about anywhere in the world.

The process is simple. First, like “official” lotto sites, you’ll be asked to pick the game you want to play. The main difference is that you may be able to pick from big jackpots across the globe, rather than just games in a single jurisdiction. You’ll pick your numbers, decide how many tickets you want to play, and submit your entries, just as on any other website. You may even be able to make a subscription, which again is likely to come with a discount if you’re willing to pay for several drawings at once.

The differences come into play after you complete your purchase. Instead of getting an immediate confirmation of your entries, an actual human being – a concierge – will have to physically purchase your tickets on your behalf. Once they’ve done so, they’ll scan the tickets, and post them to your online account so that you can confirm that you’re entered into the drawing.

Should you win a small prize, a concierge for the site will redeem your winners and place your earnings back into your account, allowing you to make more purchases or withdraw your funds. For bigger wins (including jackpots), the site will either send you the tickets so that you can redeem the prize, or they may be able to claim the prizes on your behalf, with the exact procedures depending a lot on the rules of a given lotto organization.

Another possibility that has expanded thanks to the Internet is the concept of the syndicate. That term refers to any group that pools their money in order to increase their chances to win a jackpot or other large prize, agreeing to split their winnings should any of their tickets hit the lucky numbers.

These groups are nothing new. Many jackpots have been won by office pools that contain dozens of players, each of whom still received a fairly sizable payout when they collected their prizes, much to the chagrin of any of their co-workers who didn’t take part in the group.

But the Internet has made it easier than ever to find people with whom you can share in your dreams of changing your life forever. Some sites now set up syndicates on behalf of their members for specific lotteries, allowing a certain number of people to sign up for a given price, after which they’ll purchase the appropriate number of tickets. In many cases, operators will also provide tools to help people set up their own syndicates among friends.

While this may seem like a lot of work for very little benefit – it’s not that hard to find people to split the cost of tickets with you, and collecting money and divvying up winnings isn’t all that hard – there is at least one compelling benefit to joining an online syndicate or running one through a third-party website. The fact is that in the unlikely event that you win a jackpot, you’ll be talking about a serious amount of money – and having someone else responsible for making sure that everyone gets their fair share pretty much ensures that there won’t be any heated disputes over who should be getting what out of the deal.

The Same Game, Just Easier than Ever

The lottery is not a hard game to play. There is no strategy to implement (other than trying to avoid picking all popular numbers, in the hopes of splitting a jackpot with as few people as possible), and it only takes a moment to fill out a ticket – especially if you’re willing to take a quick pick. Unlike in the case of some other gambling games, you aren’t likely to try online bingo sites because you were too intimidated to buy a ticket in person or because it was too inconvenient to buy them at a brick-and-mortar location.

But that doesn’t mean that you should ignore online lotto sites. They offer up some new and exciting opportunities to play games you’ve never tried before, find people who are willing to chip in towards a shot at a major jackpot, or maybe even get a slightly better deal on the cost of tickets. It’s a whole new way to play one of the world’s most popular gambling games, and it shows that even the simplest offerings can be improved with a little innovation.

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