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sweepstakes,contest or race, usually a horse race, on which a lottery is run. Prizes are awarded to the holders of winning tickets. In the case of a horse race, the draw is made from the names of all the horses entered in the race and vast numbers of blanks. Thus most ticket holders draw blanks, while only a few draw the name of a horse. In some sweepstakes, prizes are awarded to persons holding tickets bearing the name of horses that win, place, and show, while in others prizes are given also to those whose tickets bear the names of all the horses that started in the race. In still another form of sweepstakes, the tickets sold bear numbers, some of which are to be assigned to the horses that will run in the race. The term sweepstakes may also refer to the total amount of money contributed. The Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes is probably the most popular in existence today. Because of a scandal over the Louisiana lottery, the U.S. Congress in 1890 passed a law making it illegal in the United States to import, to send through the mails, or to ship in interstate commerce any sweepstakes tickets. In 1963 a legal state sweepstakes lottery was initiated in New Hampshire to provide funds for state education. Other states soon followed with similar lotteries.
sweepstake(esp US), sweepstakes
a. a lottery in which the stakes of the participants constitute the prize
b. the prize itself
2. any event involving a lottery, esp a horse race in which the prize is the competitors' stakes