A lottery is a process for distributing something (typically money or prizes) among people who purchase chances to win by chance or by random selection. It is most often a form of gambling that involves the purchase of numbered or symbol-bearing tickets with the winning prize determined by a drawing. Most modern lotteries have a fixed number of winners and a predetermined prize pool, though some may allow the winner to select their own numbers or symbols.
In the United States, state governments are usually responsible for organizing and regulating lotteries; however, some private companies also operate public lotteries. Most states have laws governing the operation of a lottery, and some delegate the administration of the lottery to a lottery division within the Department of Law and Public Safety. These departments will choose and license retailers, train employees of those retailers to use lottery terminals and sell and redeem tickets, and help them promote the games. They also will supervise the sale and redemption of high-tier prizes, pay those prizes to players, and ensure that retailers and players comply with lottery rules and laws.
The lottery has a long history in many countries, and the practice dates back to ancient times. The Old Testament has dozens of examples of land being distributed by lot, and Roman emperors gave away slaves and property in a similar manner during Saturnalian feasts. Modern lotteries are generally organized for public benefit, with proceeds supporting a wide range of government programs.