A game in which people win a prize by chance, based on the drawing of lots. Lotteries usually involve a single large prize and many smaller prizes, but they may also award non-monetary rewards such as goods or services. The word is a variant of the Latin term lot, meaning fate or destiny, and the practice of determining things by casting lots has a long record in human history, with some early examples appearing in the Bible (see cast; to cast one’s lot).

State lotteries typically have broad public support, which can be attributed partly to their purported benefit to society. When states adopt them, they usually create a public corporation with a monopoly on the sale of tickets; begin operations with a small number of relatively simple games; and then rely on steady increases in revenues to drive expansion into new games such as scratch-offs and video poker. In this way, they can become a form of painless taxation.

Lottery enthusiasts often argue that the money raised by lotteries is used to promote certain public benefits, such as education. This message can be effective, especially in times of economic stress, but it has never been able to convince critics that lotteries are inherently bad for society, or that they are regressive and harmful to lower-income groups. Moreover, studies have shown that the bulk of lottery players and revenues come from middle-income neighborhoods, with far fewer participants proportionally coming from low-income areas.