A lottery is a low-odds game of chance or process in which winners are selected by random drawing. They are used in decision-making situations, such as sports team drafts and the allocation of scarce medical treatment, but they are also popular forms of gambling that encourage people to pay a small sum of money to be in with a chance of winning a big jackpot – often administered by state or federal governments.
The first recorded European public lottery was held in the Low Countries in the 15th century, raising funds for town fortifications and helping the poor. During this period, the town records of Ghent, Utrecht and Bruges indicate that these lottery games were very popular.
Historically, negative attitudes toward lottery gambling were strong throughout Europe until the early twentieth century. Negative perceptions were partly attributed to fear of fraud, but they slowly softened during the 1920s and 1930s.
Despite their high odds, lottery sales are a significant source of revenue for many states and are a common form of gambling across the world. In fiscal year 2019, United States lottery sales totaled more than $91 billion.