Lottery is a game of chance in which players buy tickets for a prize. The prize money may be cash, goods or services. The winners are selected in a random drawing, and each ticket has an equal chance of being drawn. Lottery games are popular in many countries, and are usually operated by a governmental agency or a private corporation.

Americans spend over $80 billion a year on lottery tickets. They also rely on the lottery as a form of savings for emergencies or to pay off credit card debt. Yet there is a dark side to the game that has nothing to do with the big jackpots and flashy ads. It’s about the fact that if you win the lottery, your life changes dramatically. And that’s not always a good thing.

The first records of European lotteries that offered tickets for sale with prizes of unequal value date back to the 15th century in the Low Countries, where towns organized them to raise funds to build town fortifications and help the poor. The modern game was born in the US with the introduction of scratch-off tickets in 1975; the “quick pick” numbers option came three years later; and a multi-state lottery was launched in 1982.

Lotteries rely on two messages mainly: one is that you should play because it’s fun. The other is that it’s a good thing because state coffers are boosted. But these messages obscure the regressivity and apathy toward gambling that is at their core. And they also obfuscate the fact that most lottery winners end up bankrupt in a matter of a few years.