The History of the Lottery


Whether you are looking for a big cash prize or just a thrill, a lottery is a great way to go. There are a variety of lotteries, with different formats. Often, the profits are used to fund public projects. These include roads, libraries, college campuses, and bridges.

The first known European lotteries were distributed by wealthy noblemen during Saturnalian revels. These prizes were generally in the form of expensive dinnerware, articles of unequal value, or other fancy items.

Lotteries were popular in the Netherlands in the 17th century. In 1726, the Staatsloterij was established. According to town records in Ghent, lotteries may have been even older.

Several states used lotteries to raise money for town fortifications, bridges, roads, libraries, and college campuses. In 1755, the Academy Lottery financed the University of Pennsylvania. In 1758, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts raised money with a lottery for an “Expedition against Canada.”

During the French and Indian Wars, several colonies used lotteries to raise money for their troops. In 1769, Col. Bernard Moore’s “Slave Lottery” advertised land and slaves as prizes.

The earliest known European lotteries were held during the Roman Empire. According to the Chinese Book of Songs, the game of chance is “drawing of lots.” Lotteries also were used by Roman emperors to finance major government projects.

Lotteries are not always a great idea, though. The chances of winning a jackpot are slim. And the cost of a ticket can add up. Many people who are below the poverty line estimate that they spend about six percent of their income on lottery tickets.