Lottery is a form of gambling in which prizes are allocated by chance. A lottery may be conducted for a variety of purposes, including raising money for public works projects and providing aid to the poor. Lottery games have a long history and are widespread throughout the world. They are also an increasingly popular source of gambling revenue, particularly among lower-income groups.
A basic feature of a lottery is the recording of identities, amounts staked by each bettor, and the number(s) or other symbols on which each bet is placed. Prizes are typically awarded to the bettor whose ticket matches the winning numbers, although there are some lotteries in which the prize is awarded to the individual whose name appears on the record of winners. Depending on the nature of the lottery and the rules that govern it, expenses such as profits for the promoter and costs of promotion must be deducted from the total prize pool. This leaves a small percentage of the pool for prizes, and a decision must be made about whether to offer a few large prizes or many smaller ones.
The popularity of the lottery has given rise to debates over its impact on society and the economy. Some of these arguments focus on the problem of compulsive gamblers and a regressive effect on lower-income groups. Others have centered on questions about the integrity of the system and its effect on state finances, with some critics viewing it as a form of taxation that encourages people to spend money they might otherwise save or invest in productive activity.