A lottery is a form of gambling in which numbers are drawn at random for a prize. Some governments outlaw lotteries, while others endorse them and regulate their operations. Lotteries typically involve a large pool of funds from ticket sales, from which costs and profits (for organizing and promoting the games) are deducted. A percentage of the remainder is awarded to winners. A common arrangement involves a balance between few large prizes and many smaller ones, with the latter attracting potential bettors to buy tickets.

The modern era of state-sponsored lotteries began with New Hampshire’s introduction of one in 1964. Since then, almost every state has introduced a lottery, with most retaining it as an important source of revenue. Lotteries attract a broad base of support, including convenience store operators (who usually serve as retailers); lottery suppliers and their workers; teachers (in states in which lottery revenues are earmarked for education); state legislators (who quickly become accustomed to the revenue boost); and the general public.

But while the public is generally supportive of lotteries, critics point to the regressive nature of the game and question whether state governments should promote a form of gambling from which they profit. Moreover, because lottery commissions are run like businesses with a focus on maximizing revenues, advertising necessarily concentrates on persuading target groups to spend their money on the games. This runs at cross-purposes with the larger societal interests of limiting gambling’s negative consequences on poor people, problem gamblers, etc.