Lottery is a game of chance that offers players the opportunity to win money. The prize money is normally determined by drawing lots, with the winning ticket holders receiving a portion of the total amount staked. The basic requirements for a lottery to operate are a means of recording the identities of the bettors, the amounts that each has staked, and the numbers or other symbols on which their bets are placed. A computer system is frequently used for the purpose, although in some cases bettors write their names on a ticket that is then deposited with the lottery organization for later shuffling and selection for the drawing. In either case, a percentage of the pool is deducted for the cost of organizing and promoting the lottery and for taxes and profits.

The earliest state-sanctioned lotteries are known from records of the Low Countries in the 15th century, when various towns held public lotteries to raise money for town fortifications and to help the poor. The word “lottery” is probably derived from Middle Dutch loterie, or through it, from Old French loterie, a play on words meaning the action of drawing lots.

A common belief in support of lotteries is that they provide an additional source of revenue to government without burdening taxpayers excessively. This was the argument that drove the adoption of lotteries in the immediate post-World War II period, when states were trying to expand their programs without increasing onerous tax rates on the working class.