A lottery is a form of gambling where a person can buy tickets for a chance to win large sums of money. It is one of the oldest forms of gambling. It has been around for centuries and is found in many cultures. Historically, lotteries have been a popular source of funding for public projects. In the United States, lottery funding has been tied to national and local goals, including wars, colleges, and public works projects.

In the United States, state governments operate lottery companies. These monopolies are funded by the lottery profits and use the money for government programs. As of August 2004, there were forty state lotteries in operation, with nearly ninety percent of the population living in a state with an active lottery. Anyone can buy a lottery ticket if they are physically present in the state.

A recent study of lottery players found that one-fifth of people play at least one time a week. The rest play once or twice a month or less. And the people who play the most often are high-school-educated, middle-aged men with average incomes. It was found that people in South Carolina were most likely to play the lottery.

In FY 2006, the lottery sold $17.1 billion in profits to states. The states then allocated these profits in a variety of ways. As can be seen in table 7.2, a total of $234.1 billion has been distributed to various beneficiaries since 1967. Of these, New York was the state that had the highest amount of education-related lottery profits, with $30 billion. California and New Jersey followed.