noun (used with a singular or plural verb)
a race or other contest for which the prize consists of the stakes contributed by the various competitors.
the prize itself.
a lottery in which winning tickets are selected at random, each winning-ticket number then being matched to one of the horses nominated for or entered in a specific race, and the amounts paid the winners being determined by the finishing order of the horses that run.
lottery ( def 2 ).
any gambling transaction in which each of a number of persons contributes a stake, and the stakes are awarded to one or several winners.
a risky venture that promises large rewards: the high-tech sweepstakes.

1485–95; earlier swepestake orig., a person who won all the stakes in a game; see sweep1, stake2, -s3

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a sweepstakes.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
sweepstake or esp (US) sweepstakes (ˈswiːpˌsteɪk)
1.  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
[C15: originally referring to someone who sweeps or takes all the stakes in a game]
sweepstakes or esp (US) sweepstakes
[C15: originally referring to someone who sweeps or takes all the stakes in a game]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"prize won in a race or contest," 1773, from M.E. swepestake "one who sweeps or wins all the stakes in a game" (1495, as the name of one of the King's ships), from swepen "sweep" + stake (v).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
There has hardly been any good news in the global climate sweepstakes for the
  last decade.
But hurdles are opportunities for the enterprising and the race is on to win
  the renewable energy sweepstakes.
And in the natural-name arena the one product that could probably win the
  sweepstakes without even trying is natural gas.
After all, diesel is not traditionally thought of as a winner in the clean
  exhaust sweepstakes, nor is it known for speeds.
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