A lottery is a game of chance in which you pay a small amount to purchase a ticket. Then, you have a chance to win a prize, such as money. The probability of winning is determined by the number of tickets sold and the odds of picking a certain set of numbers.
In the United States, state governments operate a monopoly that allows them to profit from the revenues generated by lotteries. In most states, the state also controls who can sell tickets and what games are available.
The establishment of a lottery is generally accomplished by legislative action. Once a lottery is established, it typically begins with a small number of relatively simple games, and progressively expands in size and complexity. Revenues then typically increase dramatically, and then level off or begin to decline as people become bored with the lottery.
The success of a lottery depends on how well it attracts public support. This is based in part on the perceived value of the revenues generated by the lottery in terms of a specific public good, such as education. This argument is especially effective in times of economic stress, when the prospect of tax increases or cuts in public services may be a concern. It is also dependent on the degree to which the public sees the lottery as a form of taxation that can be avoided. In addition, state legislatures may be reluctant to approve lottery establishment when there are other forms of gambling that are legal in the state.