Lottery is a popular gambling game in which numbers are drawn to determine prizes. The word lottery also refers to a contest or activity in which the result depends on fate or luck: the stock market is often called a lottery.
In the United States, state governments create lotteries by statute. They also regulate the games and their prizes. Some states have special laws that limit the number of tickets a person can purchase or that bar people from selling them to other persons.
While many people enjoy playing the lottery, critics have raised moral concerns about it. One argument is that it undermines a fundamental virtue: the concept of voluntary taxation, in which people pay a tax only if they believe that it will benefit them. By promoting addiction and fostering hopeless expectations, lottery games distort this principle.
Another argument is that lotteries are unfair to poor and working-class citizens, who tend to play the games most. They argue that these people are being preyed upon by the state, which is using lotteries to avoid imposing more-regressive taxes on those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
The first public lotteries, which awarded money prizes to those who bought tickets, appeared in the Low Countries during the 15th century. They were used by towns to raise money for town fortifications and to help the poor. In the 17th and 18th centuries, public lotteries were very common in Europe as a way to raise money for a variety of purposes and were widely seen as a painless alternative to taxes.