Lottery is a game of chance in which prizes are awarded to those who purchase tickets. The prizes may be cash or goods, and the odds of winning vary based on how many tickets are sold. Lottery is a form of gambling, but one that is generally less costly than other types of gambling.

The practice of distributing property and other assets by lottery goes back to ancient times, as recorded in the Bible (Numbers 26:55-56) and by Roman emperors who used lotteries to give away slaves and properties during Saturnalian feasts. Modern lotteries are organized by state governments and private promoters and are usually regulated by law. They raise money for public purposes such as schools, roads, and medical research, and are considered to be a relatively painless way of collecting taxes.

In the United States, a lottery is a government-sponsored game in which numbers are drawn for a prize. It is the world’s largest gaming market, with annual revenues exceeding $150 billion. The vast sums of money on offer have led to criticism that lottery gambling can become addictive. The lottery is often promoted as a way to help the poor, and the winnings can be used for charitable purposes.

In the immediate post-World War II period, state officials saw the lottery as a source of revenue they could use to expand social safety nets without onerous taxes on middle and working class families. But that arrangement began to deteriorate as inflation and the cost of war increased.