A lottery is a game of chance in which numbers are drawn at random to determine the winner. The number selected corresponds to a specific prize amount, which is then awarded to the winning ticket holder. In addition to prizes, some lotteries also offer other incentives such as free tickets or merchandise. While the casting of lots for making decisions and determining fates has a long record (and is mentioned in the Bible), modern public lotteries are relatively recent innovations.

After state governments legislate a lottery, they generally create an independent public corporation or agency to run it; start operations with a small number of fairly simple games; and then, driven by the need for additional revenues, progressively expand their offerings. Many of the newer games are in the form of scratch cards, which cost less than a full lottery ticket and are more easily sold. Some, such as keno, allow players to select individual numbers or sequences, which can be especially effective for those who don’t want to pick the same numbers that hundreds of other people choose.

While lottery revenues typically grow dramatically immediately after a lottery is introduced, they eventually plateau and even decline. This is largely due to the fact that jackpots are rarely won, so they don’t generate the same amount of free publicity that would be enjoyed by a much larger prize. Also, because the lottery is a business that needs to maximize revenue, its advertising necessarily focuses on persuading certain groups of people to spend money on it. These include convenience store owners (the typical vendors for the games); lottery suppliers (whose heavy contributions to state political campaigns are often reported); teachers (in states where a large portion of the proceeds is earmarked for education); and, of course, the general public.