A lottery is an event where a prize is awarded to one person who correctly guesses the numbers on a winning ticket. Lotteries are usually run by state governments, but can also be operated by private entities.

The first known lotteries to offer tickets for sale with prizes in the form of money were held in the Low Countries during the 15th century, raising funds for town fortification and helping the poor. Various towns recorded lotteries in their records, including the city of Ghent, Utrecht and Bruges, which raised a total of 1737 florins (worth about US$170,000 in 2014).

In the United States, the government regulates lottery games through laws and rules that ensure fair outcomes. These include establishing a legal monopoly for the operation of the lottery, selecting and licensing retailers to sell tickets, providing training for retailers on how to use lottery terminals, and ensuring that winnings are distributed fairly.

Critics have argued that lottery games are often deceptive and that they inflate the value of the prizes won. Some critics also argue that they have a regressive impact on lower-income neighborhoods and that their revenues are not necessarily tied to the overall fiscal condition of the state.

Most states enact their own laws regulating the operation of lottery games. These laws usually grant a monopoly to the state in return for an annual fee, and may require that the state appoint a special lottery board or commission to oversee the lottery. These boards and commissions administer the lottery by selecting and licensing retailers, training them to use lottery terminals, and paying high-tier prizes to players.