Lottery is a common form of gambling, with states offering a range of games that involve picking numbers in order to win big prizes, often money. These games also raise state revenue, and the fact that lottery tickets are usually cheaper than other forms of gambling makes them attractive to consumers. But the way that these revenues are used is less transparent than a traditional tax. The total value of prize money in a lottery is the amount remaining after paying out winning tickets and covering operating expenses and advertising costs. This leaves a relatively small percentage of the total pool available for other government uses, such as education.

Whether it’s a state-run contest with large cash prizes or the kind of contest in which you pick your own numbers, a lottery is just a gambling system with a low chance of winning (even finding true love or getting hit by lightning are lower odds). And although people might play the lottery for the money, there’s more to it than that: Lotteries are dangling the promise of instant riches in an age of inequality and limited social mobility.