Lottery is a form of gambling that awards prizes according to a random selection process. A state or other entity typically organizes a lottery to raise money for some public purpose such as education, public works, or charitable causes. A number of people purchase numbered tickets to win a prize, usually some money or other goods or services. The word lotto comes from Italian lotteria, which is derived from the Latin root lot, meaning “lot, portion, or share”; it is cognate with Old English hlot and Middle Dutch loterie.

Lotteries have long been popular in Europe. They first appeared in the Low Countries in the 15th century, with towns attempting to raise funds for town fortifications and to help the poor. In the 17th century, Francis I of France authorized private and public lotteries, which proved very popular. By the 18th century, public lotteries were common in the United States, where they were a relatively painless way to collect taxes and helped fund several colleges including Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, King’s College (now Columbia), and William and Mary.

Lottery commissions rely on two messages primarily to drive sales. One is that winning a big jackpot is very exciting and will make your life better. The other is that even if you don’t win the jackpot, buying a ticket is good for you because it helps the state. Both of these messages are coded in such a way that they obscure the regressivity of the lottery and its negative impact on families’ budgets.