In biblical times, lots in the form of marked sticks or stones were cast to help make important decisions. The Han Dynasty is said to have financed part of the Great Wall construction by selling lottery tickets, and in England, King James's lottery helped fund the first British colony in America.
Today, governments rely on lottery sales for a steady revenue stream, which some criticize as a tax on the poor. The majority of players have below-average incomes and spend a lot of that income on games that give very slim chances of a significant payout. You're way more likely to win an Oscar or get crushed my a meteor than to hit a lottery jackpot.
You can try your luck using virtual money at the LA Times's lottery simulator. Plug in your numbers and watch how frighteningly easy it is to lose your money.