Lottery is a form of gambling in which numbers are drawn for a prize. Its roots go back centuries. The Old Testament instructed Moses to conduct a census and divide land by lottery, while Roman emperors gave away property and slaves in Saturnalian feasts. It has wide appeal as a method of raising money because it is easy to organize, widely popular, and relatively inexpensive to operate. It also has many different prizes, with the larger one usually being predetermined and the smaller ones being awarded based on the number of tickets sold.
The popularity of lottery has been driven by the prospect of achieving wealth quickly and easily, especially in an age of limited social mobility. In addition to dangling the promise of instant riches, lottery promoters have realized that large jackpots attract media attention and boost ticket sales. The lottery has become a major source of state revenue, with its huge jackpots helping to fund many public projects.
Those who play lottery are primarily middle class households, though there are differences by age and gender. Men are more likely to play than women, and blacks and Hispanics are more likely to play than whites. People who play the lottery also vary by income. Lottery has been used to raise funds for many public works projects and charitable purposes, including the building of roads and canals, churches and schools, hospitals and libraries. It was also used during the Revolutionary War to raise money for military supplies.