A lottery is a form of gambling in which numbers are drawn to determine winners. Prizes are normally cash or goods. Lotteries are often run by state governments, and a percentage of the proceeds is donated to good causes. Some states earmark lottery profits for specific programs, such as public education, but critics argue that this simply reduces the amount of money the legislature would have otherwise allocated from the general fund and does not increase overall funding.
In colonial America, lotteries were frequently used to raise funds for a wide range of private and public ventures: paving roads, building churches, erecting canals, and so on. Lotteries were even used to finance the construction of Harvard and Yale, and in 1776 George Washington sponsored a lottery to raise money for an expedition against Canada.
State lotteries are usually regulated by laws governing game play and advertising, and are typically administered by a state agency or public corporation. These agencies generally select and train retailers to sell and redeem tickets, promote lottery games, pay high-tier prizes, and collect and validate winning tickets. Most modern lotteries offer a number of different games, each with varying frequencies and prize levels.
Lotteries are widely popular and enjoy broad public support. In states that conduct lotteries, about 60% of adults report playing at least once a year. However, the public also expresses some concerns about lotteries: complaints about compulsive gamblers and regressive impacts on low-income communities are common.