Lottery is a competition based on chance in which numbered tickets are sold for the chance to win a prize. It is a popular way to raise money for state or charitable purposes and is occasionally used as an alternative to paying taxes. The casting of lots to determine fates or property has a long history in human culture, including several instances in the Bible; a lottery was held by Caesar for municipal repairs in Rome, and Benjamin Franklin organized an unsuccessful lottery to finance cannons to defend Philadelphia against the British in the American Revolution.

When governments legalize a lottery, they typically legislate a monopoly for themselves; establish a state agency or public corporation to run the lottery; start with a small number of relatively simple games; and then, driven by revenue pressures, progressively expand the number and complexity of games offered. Critics point to the inherent conflict between a state’s desire to maximize revenues and its responsibility to protect the welfare of its citizenry. They also point to studies indicating that lottery advertising tends to present misleading information about odds of winning, and to inflate the value of money won (lottery jackpot prizes are typically paid out over 20 years, with inflation dramatically eroding the current amount); they further allege that lotteries promote addictive gambling behavior and are a major regressive tax on poor communities.

Lottery is also controversial because of its impact on the environment, and on the distribution of state appropriations. In addition, it has been criticized as a major source of corrupt government practice.