Lottery is a form of gambling that gives cash prizes to paying participants who match numbers in a drawing. Unlike sports betting, which involves a skillful gambler wagering on the probability of winning, the lottery is an exercise in pure chance. The practice of distributing property and other goods or services by lottery dates back to ancient times. The Bible records the distribution of land among the Israelites by lot, and the Roman emperors used it to give away slaves and other goods. In modern times, many states hold lotteries to raise money for state projects and programs.

People play the lottery for a variety of reasons. Some players believe that they have an inextricable desire to win, and some see it as a way to relieve boredom or stress. Others play to experience the thrill of winning and the fantasy of becoming rich. Still, the vast majority of lottery purchases are made by people who do not consider themselves risk-averse or gamblers. Lottery purchases cannot be explained by decision models based on expected value maximization, as the tickets cost more than they will yield, but can be explained by more general models that account for risk-seeking behavior or by adjusting the curve of a utility function to reflect the pleasure derived from gambling.

Some lottery winners have experienced trouble in their post-lottery lives. For example, a California woman who won $1.3 million in the Mega Millions in 2001 was accused of fraud and malice in her divorce case after failing to disclose the award as an asset. In addition, studies have found that most lottery winners spend most of their windfalls in a relatively short period of time and are more likely to be involved in illegal activities such as drug dealing, armed robbery, and fraud.