A lottery is a gambling game or method of raising money in which tickets are sold and the winners, selected by a drawing, receive prizes ranging from small items to large sums of money. Lotteries are typically regulated to ensure that the results are fair and legal. They are also popular as a tax-exempt form of public fundraising.

The prize pools in modern state-run lotteries are generally enormous. Those who win the lottery can easily become addicted to the games, and their winnings can trigger huge tax bills, bankruptcies, or other serious financial problems. The regressive nature of lottery profits has long been a concern. Lottery commissions try to counteract this regressivity by emphasizing two messages primarily: that playing is fun and that it helps states.

Lotteries have been around since ancient times, and they continue to be a popular form of public fundraising. Their popularity is rooted in their simplicity to organize, ease of play, and high participation rates. Lotteries are also popular because of their low risk of fraud or corruption and their ability to raise large amounts of money for a variety of purposes.

The first recorded European lotteries were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century to raise money for wall and town fortifications and to help the poor. The term “lottery” is derived from the Dutch noun lot meaning fate or chance. In the 17th century, many public lotteries were established in the United Kingdom to support a variety of public projects.