Lottery is a form of gambling in which numbers are drawn to determine the winner. The practice has a long history, with several instances in the Bible and the use of lots for property distribution among Roman emperors. Modern state-sponsored lotteries generate billions of dollars each year and are the primary source of public-works projects, higher education, and medical research. They also provide a large share of funding for public schools, day-care and preschool subsidies, job training grants, college scholarships, and athletic team travel.

Lotteries are accessible to a broad segment of the population, as tickets cost only a few dollars, and prizes can reach multimillion-dollar amounts. However, many studies have found that lottery play tends to be addictive, with a particular regressive effect on those living on assistance or earning lower wages; that the chances of winning are often overstated (e.g., the odds of rolling over a jackpot are not nearly as good as advertised); that most lottery advertising is deceptive (for example, by inflating the value of prize money won, which is paid out in equal annual installments over 20 years and is heavily taxed), and so on.

Lottery popularity has been shown to be influenced by the extent to which proceeds are perceived as benefiting a specific public good, such as education. Studies also show that the objective fiscal condition of a state government does not appear to have much influence on whether a lottery is adopted or not.