Lottery is a gambling game in which tickets are sold for the chance to win prizes, often a cash prize. In the United States, state governments run most lotteries. Some of these have a variety of games, including instant-win scratch-offs and daily drawing games that require players to choose numbers.
The prizes may be money, goods or services. The first recorded lotteries, in the sense of giving tickets with a chance to win a prize based on random selection, occurred in the 15th century in Burgundy and Flanders, where towns raised funds to build town fortifications or to help the poor. Francis I of France introduced the public lottery to French cities in the 1500s, and these gained enormous popularity. They were hailed as a painless form of taxation and supported a broad range of municipal uses.
Since the results of a lottery are determined by chance, the odds of winning are extremely low. Nevertheless, lottery games attract large numbers of people, and the prizes are enticing. Some critics point to the high levels of addiction that can occur among lottery players and argue that governments should not be in the business of promoting such a vice. Others counter that lottery profits provide important revenue for state and local needs.