Lottery is a form of gambling in which tickets are sold for a chance to win a prize (usually money). People have different opinions about whether lottery games are addictive or harmful. Many state governments run lotteries in order to raise funds for public projects. Other governments regulate lotteries or prohibit them altogether.

Various forms of lotteries have been used since ancient times, and the word itself dates back to Middle Dutch loterie, which is a calque on French loterie “lottery.” Early lotteries in Europe were held for a variety of purposes, including raising money to build walls or town fortifications and helping the poor.

The first lottery was set up in the Low Countries in the 15th century, and by the end of that century the practice had spread to England and Scotland. Lotteries became popular in the United States in the early 1800s, when private companies organized them to sell products or properties for more money than could be obtained by regular sales. During the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress established a lottery to support the Colonial Army, and Alexander Hamilton wrote that he was convinced that “every man is willing to hazard a trifling sum for the hope of considerable gain.”

Today, most states regulate lotteries by creating special divisions within their departments of revenue. These lottery divisions license retailers, train them to use lottery terminals, and help them promote their games. They also select and pay high-tier prizes, and they ensure that retailers and players comply with state laws. In addition, state lotteries often offer free publicity on news websites and on television and radio, which helps increase ticket sales.