Lottery is a popular form of fundraising in which a prize is awarded to a randomly selected group of ticket holders. The prize money may consist of a single large sum or an accumulation of smaller amounts. In some states, lottery proceeds are earmarked for education or other public purposes. Regardless of the specific uses, lotteries enjoy broad public support. They also have a number of specific constituencies, including convenience store operators (who usually supply the tickets); suppliers of services or goods that are used in lotteries (heavy contributions by these entities to state political campaigns are often reported); teachers (in states where lottery revenues are earmarked for education), and state legislators.
The earliest European lotteries were conducted in the 15th century with various towns raising funds for town fortifications and helping the poor. Possibly the first lottery to award cash prizes was the ventura in 1476, held in Modena, Italy, under the auspices of the d’Este family.
Modern public lotteries are typically promoted as a painless alternative to state taxation, in which players voluntarily spend their money for the good of society. They have become a major source of revenue for many state governments, and are particularly popular in times of economic stress. Lotteries have also received substantial criticism for promoting addictive gambling behavior and imposing a regressive tax on lower-income residents. Nonetheless, they continue to attract large numbers of players and to sustain widespread support from many of the state’s most powerful special interests.