Lottery is a procedure for distributing something (usually money or prizes) among many people by chance. A lottery is most often organized for some public purpose and is conducted by a government or state agency. It can also be a game played by individuals for their own benefit, usually with a prize pool of cash or goods. In the United States, there are more than 90 lotteries that sell tickets for a variety of prizes. Most of these are run by state governments and the federal government.

In early colonial America lotteries grew in popularity as an alternative to paying taxes and to fund local projects. The colonies grew to depend on them for everything from roads, canals, and bridges to schools, colleges, libraries, and churches. Lotteries were even used to raise money for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, despite Alexander Hamilton’s assertion that they were “a kind of hidden tax.”

Today, lottery games are popular in most countries, and are considered a form of gambling. The odds of winning vary widely depending on how many tickets are sold, the prize pool, and the number of numbers or symbols required to win. The odds of winning can be very low, but this has not deterred many from participating in these games.

While most lotteries offer money or goods as prizes, some award other kinds of consideration. This can include apartments in a housing project, kindergarten placements, or draft picks in professional sports.