In the United States, lotteries raise billions of dollars each year. People play for fun, but many believe that winning the lottery will bring them good luck and a better life. This belief is not entirely unfounded. The lottery is one of the few public gambling activities that has been shown to improve economic outcomes for some players.

But the fact that some play the lottery for a purpose other than money does not diminish the risk that a player will be disappointed by their results. Among the most common forms of lottery are games in which players pay to select groups of numbers, or have machines randomly spit out a group of numbers, and win prizes if enough of their number combinations match those drawn. While it is possible to win large prizes in any lottery, some are more popular than others. Historically, lotteries have disproportionately benefited lower-income households. In some cases, this has been a result of deliberate targeting: for example, Benjamin Franklin used the lottery to raise funds for cannons for his defense of Philadelphia during the American Revolution.

Regardless of the reasons for the disparity, the lottery is an attractive option for state governments, as it allows them to expand their array of services without the sting of higher taxes on the working class. The growth of the lottery has accelerated since the end of World War II, and it is now available in all but six states.