Lottery is a form of gambling that involves selling tickets and selecting winners by random drawing. It is also a common form of public funding, often administered by state or federal governments. In addition to providing a source of revenue, lottery games are sometimes used for decision-making, such as in sports team drafts and the allocation of scarce medical treatment. The purchase of lottery tickets cannot be explained by decision models based on expected value maximization, as the ticket cost is usually more than the potential winnings. However, more general models incorporating risk-seeking can account for this behavior.
The earliest recorded lottery events occurred in the Low Countries in the 15th century, where towns held public lotteries to raise funds for town fortifications and the poor. Prizes were typically money, but some of these early lotteries awarded goods such as dinnerware.
Many modern lotteries are run by computer, using a process called randomized selection to determine the winner. Usually, a large population set of individuals will be assigned a number, and then a smaller subset will be selected at random from the larger set. The individuals in this subset have the same probability of being selected as a whole, so this method provides fair representation of the larger group as a whole.
Most modern lotteries are heavily promoted, with the prevailing message being that playing the lottery is fun, and that the experience of scratching a ticket can be satisfying. In addition, many of these lotteries partner with sports teams and other companies to offer popular products as prizes. These merchandising deals benefit both the companies and the lotteries, through product exposure and shared advertising costs.