Lottery is a form of gambling wherein people try to win a prize through random chance. It can be a cash prize, goods, or services. Traditionally, lotteries are organized by governments and licensed promoters. It can be a draw or a selection from among applicants who have paid a specified amount of money to enter. Prizes may be awarded in a fixed amount of money or goods or as percentages of total receipts.
Lotteries are popular in many countries, and have been a part of human culture for thousands of years. The first recorded public lotteries that offered prizes in the form of money appeared in the 15th century in the Low Countries, where towns used them to raise funds for town fortifications and to help the poor. They became more widespread in the 17th century after the introduction of private and state lotteries by Francis I of France.
A common practice in ancient Rome was the apophoreta, in which guests drew for property or slaves during Saturnalian feasts. Lotteries have also been used in ancient Israel, where Moses arranged land distributions by lot, and by the Roman emperors to give away gifts and prizes to guests at banquets.
The current lottery market is the largest in the world and raises $150 billion per year for states and the federal government. Most of the players come from the 21st to 60th percentile of income distribution, a group that has discretionary spending but little opportunity for the American dream or for entrepreneurship, innovation, or other ways out of poverty. They spend a small fraction of their budgets on lottery tickets in the hopes that they will strike it rich by a stroke of luck.