Official lottery is a form of gambling in which many people buy tickets and the winnings are awarded by drawing from a pool or collection of tickets. The drawing is usually based on chance and often involves the use of computers to generate random numbers or symbols.
The first lotteries were introduced in Europe around the 15th century and grew in popularity. They were used to raise money for the poor and for public works. Francis I of France permitted the establishment of lotteries in several cities between 1520 and 1539.
In the United States, lottery games are regulated by each individual state or territory; they are not organized into national lotteries. The two most popular lottery games are Mega Millions and Powerball, and they are offered in nearly all jurisdictions that operate state-owned lotteries.
Winnings are not always paid out in a lump sum, and are sometimes annuitized over an extended period of time instead. This is generally considered to be a better investment for the winner because it reduces the amount of income taxes they must pay.
To claim a prize, a player must fill out a claim form and submit it to the lottery. This form may be printed by the lottery or downloaded from its website. It should include the name, address, date of birth, and social security number (SSN). If the prize is more than $200, the claim must also be made by certified mail or courier.