Lottery is a form of gambling in which players purchase tickets and hope to win a prize. The term derives from the Latin word Lotta, meaning “fate.” Prizes can include money, goods, services, and even real estate. There are several types of lotteries, including state-run games and privately run commercial games. Lotteries can be addictive, and there have been a number of cases in which winning the lottery has had a negative impact on the lives of people who become wealthy overnight.

The first recorded lotteries were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century, to raise money for town fortifications and to help the poor. The lottery is also a common way for state governments to raise money without raising taxes.

In the United States, lottery winners can expect to lose about 24 percent of their prize money in federal taxes. This percentage can rise to almost 50 percent if they are in the highest tax bracket. In addition, many states have additional state and local taxes that can be applied to lottery winnings.

Lottery operators promote their products with the message that playing the lottery is fun and an exciting way to experience a thrill. But that message obscures the regressivity of lottery purchasing and masks the fact that many of those who play the lottery are lower-income, less educated, and nonwhite. The most successful lottery operators are those who have found a way to market their product in ways that entice people with a variety of income levels to play. For example, they may offer a scratch game in which the top prize is a luxury item, such as a Harley-Davidson motorcycle or a trip to Paris.