Lottery is a form of gambling wherein tickets are sold for small sums of money in order to win a larger prize, sometimes in the millions of dollars. Lottery is typically run by state or national governments and it has gained broad popular support, in part because the proceeds are perceived to benefit a public good such as education.
The casting of lots for decisions and determining fates has a long record in human history, although it is only in the 16th century that the lottery as we know it came into existence. The first recorded lotteries were conducted in the Low Countries during the 15th century for a variety of purposes, including raising funds for town fortifications and helping the poor.
In the early days of America, lotteries were often used to finance public works projects and build schools. George Washington sponsored a lottery to fund construction of buildings at Harvard and Yale, and a variety of colonial-era states had lotteries to raise money for a wide range of public uses. Lotteries have received widespread criticism for their promotion of gambling and their alleged regressive impact on lower-income groups. They are also criticized for diverting resources from other needed public services. But even if they do not result in problem gambling or divert funds from other needs, they can distort the distribution of available resources and have other negative social effects. Lotteries are also often criticized for being addictive forms of gambling and can destroy lives by draining savings and leaving families destitute.