A lottery is a gambling game wherein people place stakes on the chance to win a prize. Prizes may be money or goods. Some lotteries offer prizes of varying value, while others give out a fixed percentage of the total sum of money placed as stakes. The prize pool must be large enough to attract a substantial number of bettors. To be successful, a lottery must also have a system for recording the identities of bettors and their stakes and for shuffling tickets or counterfoils in order to select winners. Computers are often used to accomplish these tasks.
A common element of a lottery is that it requires bettors to purchase tickets, which can be purchased at participating retail outlets or through the mail. A second requirement is a method for collecting and pooling the money paid by bettors. Typically, a portion of this money goes to cover costs of organizing and promoting the lottery, while a larger percentage is used as the pool for prizes. A further decision must be made concerning whether the prize pools should consist of a few large prizes or many smaller ones.
The success of a lottery depends on the degree to which it is perceived as a means for funding state government without imposing onerous taxes on the middle class and working classes. This is a message that lottery commissions are careful to convey, and that helps obscure the fact that the lottery is a highly regressive form of gambling.