A lottery is a contest where players buy tickets and have a chance to win money. It can be a state-run contest or any contest where the winners are selected at random.
The use of lotteries dates back to ancient times when people used the casting of lots to determine ownership or other rights. The practice spread to Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
In the colonial period, lotteries helped finance towns, wars, colleges, canals, and other public works projects. During the American Revolution, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin sponsored lotteries to finance cannons for defense of Philadelphia and rebuilding Faneuil Hall in Boston.
Throughout history, there have been many arguments about whether and how to establish lottery systems. These include the general desirability of a lottery; the problem of compulsive gamblers and their impact on the poor; and problems with running a lottery at cross-purposes to the larger public interest.