In the Middle Ages, towns across the Low Countries held public lotteries to raise money for their fortifications and poor. It is possible that these lotteries were much older than that. A record from L’Ecluse, France, dated 9 May 1445, mentions a lottery of 4,304 tickets, each carrying a prize of florins, or about US$170,000 in today’s money.

Players in the United Kingdom can also purchase tickets on the official lottery website, which is typically reserved for local residents. Those living outside the country can purchase tickets through a lottery agent. A lottery agent is licensed to purchase and distribute lottery tickets on behalf of a customer and will provide a scanned ticket as proof of purchase. The UK lottery is regulated by the Gambling Commission. If you live in a state that does not have an official lottery website, you can check out the website of your state lottery to purchase a ticket.

In order to subscribe to an official lottery, players must first sign up for an account. Subscriptions are paid in advance and may be offered in different ways, including online, where permitted by law. A sweep account, by contrast, allows a lottery to debit a retailer’s account. Sweepstakes, on the other hand, are games where prizes are awarded without purchase. However, unlike a lottery, sweepstakes are not legal or popular in all jurisdictions.