Lottery is a gambling game in which tickets are sold for a prize and the winning numbers are selected by drawing. It is often used to raise funds for public purposes. People can win large amounts of money for a small investment. The lottery is popular in the United States, where it has raised billions of dollars for state and local governments. However, there are also serious concerns about its impact on poor people and compulsive gamblers.

In the early American colonial period, Benjamin Franklin sponsored a lottery to fund cannons to defend Philadelphia from the British. After the Revolution, various states established their own state-sponsored lotteries. These typically follow a similar pattern: the government establishes an agency or public corporation to run the lottery; begins operations with a modest number of relatively simple games; and, in response to continuing pressure for additional revenues, gradually expands its offerings of games and complexity.

Lotteries have become a mainstay of state budgets, providing revenue that can supplement other sources of funding for state projects and services. But they have come under increasing criticism as a form of taxation, especially for the disproportionate number of low-income people who play them and the significant portion of their income that they spend on tickets.

Lottery marketers promote the specific benefits that the money they generate for states provides, but this obscures the overall regressive nature of the activity. They also send the message that playing the lottery is fun and that the experience of scratching a ticket is a worthwhile activity, which further obscures its seriousness.