Lottery is a game in which numbers or symbols are drawn to determine winners of prizes. To play, a person pays an entrance fee, such as money or goods. Typically, bettors write their names or other personal information on a ticket that is deposited with the lottery organization for later shuffling and possible selection in the drawing. A prize may be a fixed amount of cash or goods or a percentage of total receipts. Most modern lotteries are computerized and can record multiple entries per bettor.

The concept of distributing property by chance is at least as old as the Bible (Numbers 26:55-55) and Roman emperors (such as Nero and Augustus) used it to give away items such as slaves during Saturnalian feasts and entertainments. In the 17th century private lotteries grew popular in Europe as a means of selling products and property for more money than could be obtained from a normal sale. Government-sponsored lotteries appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries.

A major difference between state and privately run lotteries is that the state-sponsored ones are organized to raise funds for public use. The prize money for a lottery is commonly the remainder after all expenses—such as profits for the promoter, costs of promotion, and taxes or other revenues—are deducted. Some states set a minimum percentage of receipts that must be awarded as a prize. The percentage varies from state to state, but it is usually not less than 20%.