A competition based on chance in which numbered tickets are sold for a prize, often as an incentive to raise money or publicize a cause. The word lottery is derived from the Latin loteria, which means “drawing of lots.” It was first recorded in English in 1569, possibly as a calque on Middle Dutch looterie, or possibly as an independent invention. The term was probably popularized by the British newspaper the London Chronicle, which printed ads using the word lotteries in 1643.

Generally, a lottery requires payment by bettors, some method of recording their identities and the amounts they stake, and a system for selecting winners. A percentage of the bets is normally deducted as expenses and profits, and a portion may also go to promote the lottery. The remainder is available for prizes, which can be cash or goods such as automobiles, jewelry, or other items.

The smallest prizes are usually paid in a lump sum, and the remainder is carried over to the next drawing; thus, the jackpots can be quite large. Lottery advertising frequently exaggerates the odds of winning and inflates the current value of the prize (most jackpots are paid out in annual installments over 20 years, with inflation and taxes dramatically eroding the amount).

The data indicate that the majority of lottery players and revenues come from middle-income neighborhoods, with lower-income and higher-income people playing significantly less. In addition, there is a strong correlation between lottery participation and formal education level.