The History of the Lottery


If you have ever played the lottery, you probably know that numbers come up more frequently than others. This happens because these numbers are chosen randomly, but you may have wondered why some come up more often than others. Although lottery officials do not allow “rigged” results, the random chance method does produce strange results. For example, in one recent lottery, the number seven came up 115 times, while the number eight was drawn 81 times. This means that 7 is just as likely as any other number to be drawn.

Before the American Revolution, George Washington even conducted a lottery. The proceeds from this lottery helped pay for the Mountain Road in Virginia. Benjamin Franklin backed lotteries and even used them to buy cannons during the American Revolution. The University of Pennsylvania was even rebuilt with the help of a lottery. In the 1820s, however, lotteries were no longer popular and were banned by several states. In 1832, the Boston Mercantile Journal reported that there were 420 lotteries in eight states.

The lottery has many uses, including for military conscription, commercial promotions, and picking jury members. The practice of dividing property by lot dates back to ancient times. In the Old Testament, Moses was instructed to gather information about Israel’s population and divide the land by lot. Lotteries were even used by Roman emperors to give away property and slaves. In ancient Rome, apophoreta (Greek for “that which is carried home”) was a popular form of entertainment at dinner parties.