History of the Lottery


Various governments have promoted lotteries as a way to raise funds. They are usually organized so that a portion of the profits are donated to a good cause. The proceeds are then used for a wide range of public purposes, including schools, colleges, and hospitals.

Historically, the lottery was not an illegal activity. In fact, some of the earliest known lotteries in Europe were organized by the Roman Empire. The emperors would give away property and slaves in these games.

Several colonies used lotteries during the French and Indian Wars. The first state-sponsored lottery in the United States was held in Puerto Rico in 1934. The Virginia Company of London supported settlement in America at Jamestown.

In 1755, the University of Pennsylvania was financed by a lottery. Alexander Hamilton wrote that lotteries should be kept simple. He believed that people would pay trifling sums in order to have a chance of a large gain.

In 1769, a colonel named Bernard Moore held a “Slave Lottery,” where he advertised land and slaves as prizes. The lottery was not a success. However, it led to the emergence of modern stockbrokers.

The first known European lottery was reportedly organized by the Roman Emperor Augustus. He distributed the tickets to wealthy noblemen during Saturnalian revels.

A similar game was mentioned in the Chinese Book of Songs. The word lottery may be a direct translation of the Middle Dutch noun “lotinge” or calque, meaning “fate.”

In the United States, most forms of gambling are illegal. However, the lottery is a popular tax alternative.