History of the Lottery


Historically, lotteries were organized in various towns throughout the United States, the Netherlands, and Italy to raise money for various projects. These may include college funding, town fortifications, roads, canals, and libraries.

Lotteries are typically run by state or city governments. The cost of a ticket can add up over time. Depending on the jurisdiction, withholdings may be applied. In addition, the value of the jackpot is often less than the advertised amount.

The first known lotteries were organized in Italy during the 15th century. The Chinese Book of Songs mentions a game of chance called “drawing of lots”. A similar game was believed to have helped finance major government projects in the Chinese Han Dynasty.

Lotteries were popular in the Netherlands during the 17th century. There are references to lotteries as early as 1445 at L’Ecluse. During the French and Indian Wars, various colonies used lotteries to raise money. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts raised money for a “Expedition against Canada” in 1758 with a lottery.

Lotteries were also used to raise funds for college programs and hospitals. In the 1740s, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University were financed by lotteries. The Academy Lottery also financed Columbia University.

In addition to fundraising for public projects, lotteries were used to help the poor. King James I authorized the English lottery in 1612. The Virginia Company of London supported the settlement of America at Jamestown.

Lotteries have come and gone in the past two centuries. However, they re-emerged in the 1960s throughout the world.