Lottery is a game in which people pay money for a chance to win something. The prize may be anything from money to a house. Some governments outlaw it, while others endorse it and organize state or national lotteries. The word lottery has many synonyms, such as raffle and sweepstake.
In financial lotteries, players pay a small amount of money for the opportunity to win large sums of money. The winner is selected by chance, usually through a random drawing of numbers. Some people consider this a form of gambling, but others use it to raise money for charity or other public purposes.
The first European lotteries in the modern sense of the word probably appeared in 15th-century Burgundy and Flanders, with towns trying to raise funds for municipal purposes by selling chances on a distribution of prizes. The name probably derives from Middle Dutch loterje (cf. German lotto) or, as some argue, from French loterie, a calque on Middle Dutch lotinge.
In the United States, winnings are paid out either as an annuity or as a one-time lump sum. The annuity option typically gives the winner around twice as much as the advertised jackpot, but it requires the winner to invest the money over several years and is subject to income taxes. On average, winners choose the lump-sum payment.