Lottery is a type of gambling in which a large number of tickets are sold and prizes are awarded to those with the winning numbers. It is also a way of raising money for public or private projects. In the United States, state governments usually run a lottery. Other kinds of lotteries are operated by businesses, nonprofit organizations, religious and fraternal groups, and service stations. A lottery is a form of chance-based gambling, but unlike other types of gambling, it does not require that participants pay any consideration to participate.

Using the casting of lots to make decisions and determine fates has a long history, including several examples in the Bible. But the modern use of lottery for material gain began in the 15th century, when it was used to raise money for public works in Europe.

In the United States, 44 states and the District of Columbia now run a lottery. Six do not: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Utah, and Nevada. The absence of a lottery in these states is usually due to religion or other factors, such as the desire to avoid the stigma associated with gambling and the fact that state government budgets receive most of the lottery profits.

Retailers of lottery products are found in convenience and grocery stores, gas stations, nonprofit organizations, community centers, churches and other religious organizations, and bowling alleys. Some states have exclusive retailers that sell only lottery products, and others limit the number of retail outlets for which a company may compete. The New Jersey lottery launched an Internet site during 2001 just for its retailers, giving them information about game promotions and demographic data on ticket sales to help them optimize merchandising and marketing techniques.