Lottery is a form of gambling in which numbered tickets are sold for the chance to win a prize. Lotteries are usually regulated by government to ensure fairness and integrity. Lottery revenue can be used for a variety of public purposes, including education, health care, and infrastructure. In the United States, the lottery is a popular source of state revenue and is widely played. Critics of the lottery argue that it is addictive and a hidden tax on low-income people.

The concept of making decisions and determining fates through the casting of lots has a long history in humankind (including several instances in the Bible), but the first recorded lottery to offer tickets for prizes of money dates back to the 15th century, when towns in the Low Countries held public lotteries to raise funds for municipal repairs and help the poor. In the early colonies, a lottery was a common method for raising funds to construct roads and other infrastructure.

A lottery is usually organized by a state, which sets up a state agency or public corporation to run the lottery; begins operations with a small number of relatively simple games; and progressively expands the offerings to attract additional players and generate increased revenues. Many lotteries offer a single large prize, along with multiple smaller prizes. The total value of the prize pool is usually the amount remaining after expenses such as profits for the promoter, costs of promotion, and taxes or other revenue are deducted from the proceeds from ticket sales.