The lottery is a game of chance in which numbers are drawn at random to determine a prize. It might seem like a modern invention, born of the culture that birthed Instagram and the Kardashians, but it has its roots in American history.

The casting of lots to make decisions and determine fates has a long record in human history (see several examples in the Bible), but the use of lotteries for material gain is more recent, with the first lottery recorded in Europe in 1466 in Bruges, Belgium. Lotteries were originally established to raise money for public works, but they quickly became popular for their entertainment value and for helping individuals improve their lives by winning large amounts of money.

Today, 44 states and the District of Columbia run lotteries. The six that don’t—Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Utah, and Nevada—don’t participate for a variety of reasons. Some state governments don’t want to compete with gambling operators in Las Vegas; others don’t need the revenue, as they have plenty of other sources of income; and a few don’t allow private entities to operate a lottery because of religious beliefs or because they want to retain control of lottery funds.

Lottery participants can choose whether to receive their winnings as an annuity payment or a lump sum. A winner who elects a lump sum is likely to pocket less than the advertised jackpot, given that federal and state withholdings apply. For example, a $10 million jackpot would be only $5 million after taxes in the United States.