A gambling game or method of raising money in which a large number of tickets are sold and a drawing is held for prizes. Also: any scheme for the distribution of prizes by lot or chance; especially a gaming scheme in which one or more tickets bearing particular numbers draw the prizes, while the others are blanks.

The practice of drawing lots to determine property ownership or other rights is documented in ancient documents and was well established in the Low Countries in the fifteenth century. The first recorded lotteries offered prize money for tickets in the form of cash and are cited in the town records of Ghent, Bruges, and elsewhere. They were used for such purposes as providing funds for town fortifications, and helping the poor.

In the United States, state governments have monopoly rights to run lotteries and they use the proceeds solely for public purposes. A portion of the pool normally goes to organizational expenses and profits, and a substantial percentage of the remainder is earmarked for prizes. The rest is available for bettors to win, and the size of those prizes depends on the relative cost of organizing the lottery and promoting it versus the number of people willing to pay for the chance to be the winner.

Lottery marketing strategies are designed to maximize ticket sales and the amount of money that is won. In addition to advertising, they frequently rely on super-sized jackpots to attract the attention of news outlets and to generate a windfall of free publicity. The overall effect is to reinforce the myth that winning the lottery is a matter of luck and fortune, rather than the result of personal choices and hard work.