Lottery is a state-sponsored gambling game in which people draw numbers to win a prize. The chances of winning are usually long, but the prizes can be substantial. Lottery is a popular form of entertainment in many states, and people participate for a variety of reasons. Often, lottery proceeds are used to finance public projects.
The word “lottery” is believed to have come from the Middle Dutch term lotinge, a calque on the Middle French phrase loterie, but it may also be derived from the Latin verb Lotterium. The first European lotteries were private, with towns seeking money to fortify their defenses or help the poor, and they began in 15th-century Burgundy and Flanders. Francis I of France introduced a national lottery, and it became popular in the 17th century.
In a modern state-run lottery, the goal is to maximize revenue through advertising and promotion. This is at cross-purposes with the function of government, which is supposed to provide for the general welfare. In addition, the lottery’s promotion of gambling can have negative consequences for the poor and problem gamblers.
The irrational behavior of people who play lotteries can undermine the research value of the games themselves. In this context, it makes little sense for researchers and IRB members to offer a lottery instead of a cash payment. However, the culture of offering lotteries has become established in the research community, perhaps because it seems less gauche than giving participants a payment.