Lottery is a form of gambling in which numbered tickets are sold and the winners are determined by chance. Some states have laws against it. Others endorse it and regulate its operation. Some lotteries are run by private companies, while others are government-sponsored. A state may also have an established lottery commission to administer its public lotteries. Prizes range from cash to goods and services.
Lotteries have a long history, with the first recorded examples being keno slips in ancient China from the Han Dynasty. In modern times, the term is most often used to refer to financial lotteries in which players purchase a ticket and win prizes if their numbers match those randomly drawn by machines or other participants. In the broader sense, lotteries can also refer to any activity whose outcome is determined by chance: The selection of a person for an office or military service, for example, could be viewed as a type of lottery.
The earliest known lotteries offered money as prizes, though earlier records show that a ticket was purchased in exchange for an article of unequal value, such as dinnerware. In the 17th century, colonial America began using lotteries to raise funds for towns and wars, as well as schools and other public projects.
A majority of the revenue from a lottery goes back to the participating state. It can be used for a variety of purposes, from funding support centers for gambling addiction and recovery to enhancing the general fund to address budget shortfalls or other needs. The state may also put some of its revenue into specific programs, such as free transportation or rent rebates for the elderly.