Lottery is a game of chance in which the prizes are allocated by a process that relies on chance. The game is a form of gambling, and as with all forms of gambling, it can have negative impacts on individuals and society.

The earliest recorded lotteries took place in the Low Countries in the 15th century to raise money for town fortifications, poor relief, and public works projects. The earliest record, from Ghent, is dated 9 May 1445. In the subsequent centuries, lottery participation grew rapidly, and today states offer dozens of different games. State governments at every level have come to depend on painless lottery revenues, and pressures are constant to increase their share of the pie.

But there is a dark side to the story, and it has to do with the ways that lotteries are marketed and promoted. They rely on two messages, primarily. One is that people plain old like to gamble, and that’s true enough. The other is that people who play the lottery are committed gamblers who spend a substantial share of their incomes on tickets.

But there is also a hidden message, which is that the lottery promotes the idea that anyone can become rich. That’s a dangerous message in an age of inequality and limited social mobility. The fact is that, while many Americans play the lottery, the overwhelming majority of players are disproportionately lower-income, less educated, nonwhite, and male. And there is a strong relationship between lottery play and other forms of gambling.