Lottery is a gambling game in which tickets are sold and a drawing is held for certain prizes. It is also used to describe any process whose outcome depends on chance.
Lotteries are popular with the general public because they offer a large prize in addition to many smaller ones. The practice dates back to ancient times. The first recorded lottery was organized by the Roman Emperor Augustus for funds to repair city walls. In Europe, public lotteries became common in the Low Countries in the 15th century to raise money for town fortifications and to help the poor.
In modern lotteries, all applicants are assigned a number and the winning applications are selected by random drawing. In most cases, the total value of all prizes is derived from the net proceeds after all expenses (including profits for the promoter and taxes or other revenues) are deducted from the pool.
The earliest known European lottery offered tickets for sale with prizes of unequal value. Prizes may have been goods or services, cash or a piece of property. They were usually distributed at dinner parties, with the lucky guests having a ticket that would be drawn for prizes such as fancy dinnerware.
People who play the lottery spend a large share of their disposable income on tickets, and there is evidence that they often have irrational gambling behavior. However, it is important to note that the disproportionate number of players are those in the lowest income quintile, who have only a small amount of discretionary money with which to spend on lottery tickets.