A lottery is a game of chance where people pay for tickets and a set of numbers are chosen at random. The winner gets a prize, usually money. It can also be used to select applicants for a job, a sports team, or housing units. People who buy a ticket have a small chance of winning, but the odds are low. The prize is usually not announced right away. Some people buy multiple tickets and have them valid for more than one draw.

Lottery is a form of gambling and is regulated by law in some countries. It is a common method of raising money for public works and projects, such as building schools or highways. The word derives from the Dutch word lot, meaning “fate” or “chance.” Lotteries are usually governed by laws and staffed with employees who verify the identities of bettors and amounts staked. Modern lotteries use computerized systems to record and select the winning numbers.

The oldest known lotteries were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century, when towns used them to raise funds for town fortifications and help the poor. These early lotteries were probably based on the Italian lottery of chance, which was invented around the time of the birth of Jesus. The word lottery is also derived from the French term loterie, which is a calque on Middle Dutch lotinge, “action of drawing lots.” The earliest recorded use of the word in English was in 1774 in an advertisement for the Loterie de L’Ecole Militaire.