A lottery is an arrangement in which prizes are allocated by a process that relies wholly or mostly on chance. Prizes may be money or property, but they also can be goods, services, or even privileges, such as freedom from military service or jury duty.

Lotteries have been around in one form or another for centuries. The Old Testament mentions a “drawing of lots” for land; Roman emperors gave away slaves and property through a similar procedure, and in the modern United States, state lotteries are government-sponsored gambling games that use tickets to distribute money or goods.

Though the popularity of lottery games varies by state, most have at least two types of games: number games and instant or scratch-off games. Multi state lottery games are offered in multiple states and often have larger jackpots than individual games. Two of the most popular number games in the US are Mega Millions and Powerball, which are operated by individual jurisdictions but serve as de facto national lotteries.

State lotteries have been a source of revenue for many different purposes in the United States, including public education systems and social welfare programs. But critics of lotteries argue that, despite the good intentions of many legislators, they often do not succeed in achieving their stated goals and create inequities that favor middle- and upper-class families. As a result, the lottery has become a popular tool for governments seeking to raise money without having to hike taxes.