a method of raising money by selling tickets for prizes that depend on chance, such as a car or house. Some governments outlaw it, while others endorse it to some extent and organize state or national lotteries. Critics charge that lottery advertising tends to exaggerate the odds of winning, mislead people about the costs and benefits of gambling (including a potential for compulsive behavior), and impose burdens on lower-income groups.

Many people enjoy playing the lottery because it gives them a chance to dream about a huge fortune at only a couple of bucks a ticket. But for some — especially those with low incomes, who are the largest group of players in most countries — lottery games can become a major budget drain. Many end up in financial ruin.

Moreover, the fact that lotteries are business enterprises geared to maximizing revenues means that they may run at cross-purposes with public interests. It is easy to see how a government’s desire for revenue can become entangled with its broader economic, social and cultural goals. This is a common problem of public policy making, where decisions are made piecemeal and incrementally with little overall oversight. In this case, the evolution of lottery policies can have an effect on public welfare that lawmakers cannot control or predict. Nevertheless, there are some basic principles that should govern how a state uses its lottery proceeds. Among them: