Lottery is a game in which people purchase a ticket to win a prize. The prizes may be money or goods. Many states have laws regulating lottery games and awarding the rights to run them. States often delegate administration of the games to a state lottery commission or other agency. In addition to setting the rules, the commission selects and licenses retailers, trains employees of those stores to use lottery terminals, sells tickets, and redeems winning tickets.

In colonial America, lotteries were a common way to raise money for private and public ventures. They were particularly popular during the Revolutionary War, when many colonies used them to fund militias, and the Continental Congress endorsed their use as an alternative to taxes. Lottery was also a popular way to finance roads, canals, and bridges.

People who play the lottery do so based on a combination of entertainment value and other non-monetary benefits, such as the desire to be a winner. As long as the expected utility of these gains outweighs the disutility of monetary loss, the purchase of a ticket is rational for an individual.

Those who oppose lotteries usually advance one or more moral arguments. The most prevalent argument is that lottery funding is a form of hidden tax, and it hurts those who can least afford it. This is a variation of the popular criticism of any form of taxation, that it is “regressive,” placing a greater burden on those at the bottom end of the income distribution than on those at the top.