A lottery is an arrangement for allocating prizes by a process that relies wholly on chance. Prizes may be awarded in several stages and may be allocated to individual or groups of people rather than to all who participate. In a state or local government-sponsored lottery, prizes are typically allocated by a random draw of numbers or other symbols. Those prizes may be cash, goods or services. Lottery revenues are typically used for a variety of public purposes, including education and infrastructure projects.

In the United States, where lotteries are a national phenomenon, each state enacts its own laws to regulate the operation of a state-run lottery. Most states have a separate lottery division responsible for the selection and licensing of retailers, training employees of retail stores to use lottery terminals, selling and redeeming tickets, paying high-tier prizes, and compliance with state lottery laws. Most, but not all, lotteries publish detailed statistics about the number of applications and their winners after each drawing.

Lottery opponents often raise religious or moral objections, arguing that lotteries are an unethical form of gambling and that government-sponsored lotteries send a harmful message to children. Other objections focus on the appropriateness of government pushing luck, instant gratification and entertainment as substitutes for hard work, prudent investment and savings.

Despite such objections, state governments have historically won broad public approval for the introduction of lotteries. The popularity of lotteries is not linked to the objective fiscal condition of a state government, as lottery revenue consistently wins public support even during times of fiscal stress.