History of the Lottery


Throughout history, lotteries have been a means of raising money to finance a variety of public projects. These include roads, colleges, libraries, and fortifications. In the United States, lotteries are usually run by the state or city government. They are a form of gambling that has become popular among the general public.

The earliest records of lotteries are from the Roman Empire, where wealthy noblemen distributed tickets for sale with prizes in the form of money. Ancient Greeks and Romans used the apophoreta (Greek for “that which is carried home”), a game of chance, at dinner parties. The Chinese Book of Songs mentions a game of chance as the “drawing of wood”.

The Roman emperors reportedly used lotteries to give away slaves and property. In the Chinese Han Dynasty, lottery slips were said to have helped fund major government projects. However, the practice of lotteries was not universal. In the 16th century, towns in the Low Countries held public lotteries to raise money for fortifications and for the poor.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Continental Congress established a lottery to raise funds for the American Revolution. Although the lottery scheme was successful for thirty years, the project was eventually abandoned. In the 19th century, some states banned the lottery. Several colonies also used lotteries to fund local militias and fortifications.

In the early 1800s, several British colonists in the United States brought lotteries to the United States. Benjamin Franklin organized a lottery to fund cannons for the Philadelphia defense. A few states, including New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, banned lotteries in the mid-1800s. Other state governments were hesitant to permit lotteries because they believed them to be a form of hidden tax.

After World War II, the Loterie Nationale reopened in France. In the 1740s, Princeton and Columbia Universities were financed by the Academy Lottery. A rare lottery ticket with George Washington’s signature sold for $15,000 in 2007. During the 1750s, lots of money were raised to support the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ “Expedition against Canada” and the Faneuil Hall in Boston. In the 1832 census, eight states had 420 lotteries, while the District of Columbia had one.

A lotterie is simple to set up and easy to play. The organizers must ensure that there is a means of collecting stakes and keeping track of bettors. In modern lotteries, computer systems are used to randomly generate numbers, record bettors’ selected numbers, and store large amounts of tickets.

Lotteries are often criticized for being addictive, but they can be a great way to raise money for good causes. Some national lotteries divide the tickets into fractions, which cost slightly more than their full share of the total ticket price. The rest of the money goes to the state or city government. In many cases, the amount of the pool returned to bettors is between 40 and 60 percent.

Lotteries are usually organized through a hierarchy of sales agents. These brokers hire runners to sell the tickets. Depending on the type of lotterie, the money is collected in a numbered receipt and deposited with the lottery organization. In most cases, the money is then banked.