The lottery is a form of gambling where numbers are drawn at random for a prize. It is a common form of gambling in which the prize money is usually a large sum of cash or goods. The first state-sponsored lotteries distributing prizes of money in modern senses appeared in the Low Countries in the 15th century, with towns using them to raise funds for town fortifications or aid the poor. The word “lottery” is derived from the Dutch noun lot, meaning fate or choice; it was probably borrowed from Middle French loterie, a calque on Middle Dutch lotinge “action of drawing lots”.
Though the casting of lots has a long history in human culture, the practice for material gain only took hold in the 16th and 17th centuries. The casting of lots as a means of deciding or determining fates became more widespread after the invention of printing and the emergence of colonialism in Europe and Asia.
Modern lotteries have a broad popular base, with 60 percent of adults in states with lotteries reporting playing at least once a year. However, they also develop a number of specific constituencies, including convenience store operators (lottery advertisements are commonly placed in these stores); lottery suppliers (heavy contributions by lottery supply companies to state political campaigns are routinely reported); teachers in states where lotteries are used to provide supplemental education revenues; and state legislators who quickly become accustomed to the steady flow of lotto profits.