Lottery is a popular form of gambling in which people can win large sums of money. It is typically played by individuals who purchase tickets and draw numbers from a pool of entries. The winners are then awarded with a prize, typically cash. In some cases, the prizes are goods or services, such as a new car, a house, and a vacation. Many states have legalized lotteries as a source of state revenue. Some critics argue that lottery advertising is deceptive, that it promotes addictive gambling behavior, and that it is a major regressive tax on lower income groups.

There are several types of lottery games, including those that use tickets with preprinted numbers, random selection by machines, and other methods. Some state governments operate their own lotteries, while others license private firms to run them in return for a percentage of ticket sales. Regardless of the method, most modern lotteries offer multiple prize categories with varying jackpot amounts.

The first recorded lotteries to offer tickets with money as prizes were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century to raise funds for town fortifications and to help poor citizens. In colonial America, lotteries played a significant role in financing public projects, including roads, bridges, canals, and churches. Benjamin Franklin sponsored a lottery in 1726 to raise funds for cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British, and George Washington participated in a lottery in 1768 to fund his expedition against Canada.