A lottery is a game in which participants pay a sum of money for the opportunity to win a prize through a random drawing. Lottery games are often considered gambling, although there are many other types of lotteries, such as military conscription, commercial promotions in which property (such as goods or services) is given away by a random process, and the selection of jury members. In modern times, state and federal governments have begun to use lotteries for a variety of purposes, including the distribution of tax revenues, and sports team drafts and collegiate scholarships are also examples of a lottery.

In a lottery, each bettor writes his or her name and amount staked on a ticket which is then deposited for possible selection in the lottery draw. The ticket may contain the bettor’s name, a unique number or symbol or other marking which is then recorded for later shuffling and selection. Some modern lotteries have a computer system for recording ticket identifiers, and others are conducted by hand. In the American colonies, lotteries were frequently used for public funding projects. Benjamin Franklin even sponsored a lottery to raise funds for cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British, although he was ultimately unsuccessful in raising enough money.

While critics point to the high cost of a lottery, supporters argue that it provides an alternative source of revenue for government without forcing people to spend their own money. In an era when taxes are increasingly being resented, this is perhaps the most compelling argument in favor of a lottery. However, there are other issues which must be taken into consideration before a lottery is adopted.