In lotteries, tickets are purchased for the chance to win a prize. The prize amount can range from small items to large sums of money. The winners are selected by a random drawing. Lottery games are popular forms of gambling and are typically administered by state or federal governments. The first recorded lotteries were held in the 15th century, raising funds for town fortifications and poor relief.

Lotteries are popular and generate significant revenues for state governments. But promoting this form of gambling has significant costs, including those related to problem gamblers, the poor, and social mobility. These costs need to be weighed against the value of the lottery revenue to state budgets.

Throughout history, governments and licensed promoters used lotteries to raise money for a variety of projects, including building the British Museum, rebuilding bridges, and providing a battery of guns for the defense of Philadelphia during the American Revolution. In the 18th century, lotteries were also an important source of funding for many American colleges, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, King’s College (now Columbia), and Williams and Mary.

State lotteries are a major feature of American life, with 60 percent of adults reporting playing at least once a year. In the US, they provide an estimated $100 billion in annual revenues to state governments. Yet, despite the public’s obvious love of gambling, the question remains whether the lottery is in the public interest.