A competition based on chance, in which numbered tickets are sold for a prize that may be money, goods, or services. Lotteries are common in modern times and raise large sums of money for state governments or charities. The practice of making decisions or determining fates by drawing lots has a long record, including several instances in the Bible, but the lottery as an instrument for material gain is more recent. The first recorded public lotteries were in the 15th century, when various towns held them to raise funds for town fortifications and to help poor people.

Lottery proceeds have been marketed to the public as a means of benefiting a particular public good, particularly education, and this argument has proved effective in gaining and retaining widespread popular approval. The fact that it is a form of gambling, however, raises important concerns about whether the state should be running a lottery and, if so, what sort of promotional activities are appropriate for its operation.

Lottery advertising has typically been focused on persuading individuals to spend their money on tickets, and many lotteries have teamed with companies in order to offer products as prizes. Such merchandising arrangements have created additional issues, in particular because they promote gambling to groups that should not be exposed to it (the poor and problem gamblers, for example). In addition, many lottery games are highly addictive, and there are numerous examples of people who win huge jackpots but soon find themselves worse off than before.