Lottery is an arrangement whereby one or more prizes are allocated to members of a class by a process which relies wholly on chance. This arrangement must be such as to attract a substantial proportion of those who wish to participate in it.

The casting of lots to determine fates and property distribution has a long history in human affairs and there are several examples in the Bible, but the modern lottery has much more recent roots. It was introduced in 1964 in New Hampshire and it is now an established part of state government in 37 states.

Most state lotteries are run as businesses with the primary aim of increasing revenues. Consequently, the advertising campaign focuses on persuading people to spend money on lottery tickets. This inevitably leads to concerns about gambling addictions, poorer citizens being taken advantage of and other problems that must be addressed.

Typically, the public purchases tickets for a drawing to be held at some future date, weeks or months away. Revenues generally increase rapidly after a lottery is introduced, but eventually plateau or even decline. This prompts a search for new games and increased promotional efforts.

Lotteries have been used in colonial America to fund paving streets, building wharves and even Harvard University. George Washington sponsored a lottery in 1768 to help pay for construction of a road across the Blue Ridge Mountains. A lottery was also used to finance the establishment of the Virginia Company in 1612. The term “lottery” is derived from the Dutch word lot, meaning fate or fortune.