The idea of determining fates and allocating property by lot has a long history in human society, with several instances in the Bible. But lotteries as a means of raising money for public benefits are rather more recent, dating to the 15th century in the Low Countries. The earliest public lotteries raised funds for town repairs and the poor.
In modern times, lotteries are typically run by state government agencies or public corporations (as opposed to private companies that license the lottery games for a fee). They usually start with relatively small number of fairly simple games and then — to keep people coming back and generate new revenue — introduce increasingly complex and lucrative games over time.
For many people, the entertainment value of a lottery game can outweigh the disutility of a monetary loss. In such cases, a lottery purchase makes sense. Moreover, for the most avid lottery players, buying multiple tickets can improve their chances of winning by spreading out their risk and diversifying their numbers.
But it’s important to remember that, even if there were a way to win the lottery every time you play, the jackpot would eventually grow too large to be worth buying tickets for. As the jackpot grows, more people will buy tickets to have a shot at the prize, which, in turn, increases the chances that all the possible ticket combinations will be covered and nobody wins. This is why Richard Lustig, the author of How to Win the Lottery, recommends that you choose random numbers that aren’t close together so that other people don’t pick the same numbers as you.