A lottery is a game where numbers are drawn at random and prize money is awarded. Lotteries are generally run by government. They can be used to award money for public goods or services such as schools and roads. They may also award prizes for private enterprises such as cars and houses. Lotteries are usually governed by laws set by state governments. A national lottery is a lottery that offers larger prizes and services the entire country.

Lotteries became a common means of funding European settlement in America. They were also an important part of the early colonial economy, despite strong Protestant religious proscriptions against gambling. In the eighteenth century, they got tangled up with the slave trade in unpredictable ways. George Washington once managed a lottery in Virginia where prizes included human beings, and a formerly enslaved man won a South Carolina lottery and went on to foment a slave rebellion.

Today, state lotteries bring in about one per cent of the total revenue of most states. They are widely regarded as regressive, meaning that they take a disproportionate toll on low-income citizens. And their noisy promotion makes it harder to pass much needed tax increases.

Those who run the official lottery are responsible for ensuring that all tickets and winnings are properly accounted for. To do so, they must maintain separate bank accounts for all monies received from ticket sales and payments to the commission. These accounts must not be commingled with any other funds or assets.