A lottery is an arrangement in which prizes are allocated to some or all people by a process that relies wholly on chance. It is a form of gambling, and it is regulated by laws in many countries. Prizes can be money or goods. A lottery can be organized by a private company or a public entity such as a government.

In the United States, state lotteries are run as a business to generate revenue for the public good. Some critics charge that this emphasis on maximizing revenues can have negative consequences for the poor and problem gamblers, while others argue that it is an appropriate function for governments to serve.

Lotteries have been used for centuries to raise money for a variety of public and private purposes. The first recorded lotteries offered tickets with cash prizes, and were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century to fund town fortifications and help the poor.

State lotteries typically begin with a small number of games, then expand to attract new players. Once they have attracted large numbers of regular players, their revenues can plateau and even decline. To increase revenues, lottery officials introduce new games to keep current players from becoming bored with the old ones.

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