Lottery is an arrangement in which prizes (usually money) are allocated by chance. While the casting of lots has a long record in human history, including several instances in the Bible, the modern use of lotteries to distribute material gains is comparatively recent. Lottery is often considered to be a form of gambling, but it also can be a way for governments at all levels to raise money through voluntary contributions from the public.
The basic idea behind a lottery is that people pay a small amount of money for the opportunity to win a prize, usually a large sum of money. The amount paid is typically far less than the potential winnings, so the chances of winning are quite low. Other types of lottery include military conscription, commercial promotions in which property is given away by drawing random numbers, and the selection of members of a jury.
State-run lotteries, which make up the bulk of lottery play, are primarily used to raise money for various government purposes. Lottery revenues tend to expand rapidly, then level off and sometimes decline, requiring the introduction of new games to keep revenue growth up.
The majority of lottery players are disproportionately from lower-income neighborhoods. Additionally, men tend to play more than women and blacks and Hispanics more than whites. Additionally, lottery playing decreases with age and level of education. These disparities have shaped the political debate over state lotteries, particularly in an anti-tax era.