A lottery is a process of allocating prizes, especially money, by chance. It is an arrangement that relies solely on luck, and may be used to dish out anything from a kindergarten admission slot at a prestigious school to a unit in a subsidized housing block. Lotteries are popular with people who pay to participate in a random drawing and hope for winning big, but they can also be run as processes that ensure fairness when something is limited or in high demand.

In the immediate post-World War II period, some states saw lotteries as a way to increase the range of services that they provide without raising taxes too much on working and middle class families. In fact, the term “lottery” was sometimes applied to state spending as a whole because it looked like a small drop in the bucket of state budgets.

Most states have a division of government responsible for running their lottery, although some of them outsource their operation to a private corporation. The amount of oversight that a lottery receives from a state legislature varies from state to state. A report by the Council of State Governments in 1998 found that most state-run lotteries were regulated by a board or commission, and enforcement of fraud and abuse was often delegated to the attorney general’s office, or entrusted to the lottery commission.

Purchasing a lottery ticket is an investment in the hope of winning a prize, and some people invest in it more than once a week (“regular players”). Others see it as a painless form of taxation; a recent survey reported that most lottery players are male, high-school educated, and middle-aged, with a median income of $31,000.