Lottery is a game of chance where players pay for tickets and then win prizes by matching numbers randomly drawn by machines. It has become a major source of state revenue in most states.

The lottery has been popular in many countries for centuries, but it became widespread in the United States in the mid-20th century when New Hampshire introduced a state lottery and other states followed suit. Since then, it has been a part of state politics and culture in almost all states.

The modern state lottery usually has three components: a legislative monopoly; a public agency or corporation to run the lottery (as opposed to licensing private firms in return for a share of profits); and a centralized prize pool with a set of rules that determine the frequency, size and distribution of prizes. In addition, most states have a system for recording and transporting ticket sales, stakes and prize money. Most lotteries are marketed as a way to support public services, such as education or public works. This argument has proved very effective in winning and retaining broad public approval for the lottery.

Nonetheless, there are serious issues about the role of a lottery as a form of government funding. For example, because lotteries are primarily business enterprises that seek to maximize revenues through advertising, they may promote gambling in ways that have negative consequences for poor people and problem gamblers. In addition, because they are based on chance, the likelihood of winning is highly dependent on the number of applications received and how those are allocated in the prize pool.