A lottery is a form of gambling in which numbers are drawn at random for a prize. Some governments outlaw the activity, while others endorse it to some extent by organizing a state or national lottery program. These programs may be managed at a national or state level and are often regulated in terms of how the tickets can be sold, where they can be purchased, and who can sell them.

Historically, the prize money for a lottery has been a fixed amount of cash or goods that is distributed to a winner at random from the total receipts. Currently, many lotteries are based on a percentage of total receipts that is awarded to a winner or group of winners. The prize fund can also be guaranteed by a private organization that acts as an independent entity for the organizers of the lottery.

The lottery is a fixture of American society, with people spending upward of $100 billion on tickets each year. Despite that fact, it’s still not well understood how much that money means in the context of overall state revenue. State lotteries often promote their games by saying that the money they raise helps fund education, hospitals, roads, etc. But those claims are misleading because they fail to put the money in context of other sources of state revenue. They also obscure the fact that lottery revenues are inherently regressive. The average household income earner spends more than twice as much on tickets as the median family does.