Lottery is a form of gambling in which numbered tickets are sold and prizes are awarded by drawing lots. Unlike other forms of gambling, which are based on skill, the lottery is a pure game of chance. It has a long record of use in human history, and its origins go back at least to the time when people used drawing lots to determine ownership or other rights. The first recorded public lotteries were held in the 15th century, for municipal repairs in cities such as Rome and Bruges, but the modern concept of the lottery has its roots in Europe in the 17th century.

Since the 1970s, a number of states and the District of Columbia have introduced state-run lotteries. Historically, these lotteries are designed to raise money for government projects without raising taxes. They often offer a variety of games, including instant-win scratch-off tickets, daily games and multi-state jackpot games. In addition, they may also distribute prizes to charities or religious organizations. State governments set the rules for these lottery programs, choose and train retail sellers, conduct the drawings, pay the top prizes and ensure that retailers and players comply with state laws.

Throughout the United States, there are more than 200 state-licensed lotteries. These lotteries are regulated by state law and must follow strict financial reporting standards. They must pay out winning tickets within 30 days and must notify winners of the results and any additional steps that must be taken to claim their prize. The most popular lottery games include Powerball and Mega Millions. The majority of states also have smaller local and regional lotteries.

State lotteries are a key source of revenue for many state governments, but they remain controversial. Critics point to their reliance on chance and to the fact that they can cause people to spend more than they would otherwise. They also raise concerns about the potential for compulsive gambling and the regressive impact on low-income communities.

Proponents of state lotteries counter that they provide an efficient alternative to raising taxes and that they promote healthy gambling habits. They also argue that they help to stimulate the economy by generating millions of dollars in sales tax revenue. They contend that lottery proceeds can be spent on good causes such as education, medical research and infrastructure. In addition, they argue that the popularity of the lottery is a testament to the inextricable human drive to gamble and win. However, there are other reasons to be skeptical of these claims. The evidence on lottery revenues is mixed, and they tend to peak soon after a lottery is introduced, then level off or even decline. This has led to the constant introduction of new lottery games in an attempt to maintain or increase revenues.