History Of The Lottery

History Of The Lottery

The earliest records of lottery being played to raise funds for a project are found in China. The Han dynasty ran a form of lottery to gather funds to build one of the manmade wonders of the world ‘The Great Wall of China’. In the Chinese ‘book of songs’, a game has been described called ‘drawing of wood’, which in context means drawing lots based on chance. In Homer’s ‘Iliad’, there is a mention of lots being placed in Agamemnon’s helmet to determine who would fight Hector, the acclaimed Greek warrior.

In Europe, the Romans were the first to play lottery as a game at dinner parties. The game was an excuse played by wealthy noblemen to distribute gifts to their guests as each guest who received a ticket was assured of winning a prize. It was the famous Roman emperor Augustus Caesar who had lottery tickets sold to raise funds to repair Rome. The winners were given prizes the values of which are unknown.

The first records in European history of lottery tickets being sold to raise money to strengthen or build a town’s fortification or to help the poor found in the Low Countries, which made parts of Holland, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, and France. The town records of Ghent, Utrecht, and Bruges show that lottery was used from a very long time to raise funds for public projects. The oldest running lottery in the world is the Dutch State owned ‘Staatsloterij’. There are some opposing opinions about the origin of the word lottery; some historians believe it originated in Italy were as others believe that it originated from Netherlands.

In England during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, the state ran official lotteries to raise funds to strengthen the Realms and raise funds for other public works. Pictures of the lottery prizes, which consisted of valuables were drawn up and displayed in various public places. Initially, the government sold lottery tickets to the public, and it was later on that this business was handed over to brokers.

The brokers in turn hired runners and agents to sell the tickets. Since the tickets were unaffordable, the brokers broke an individual ticket into shares. They would put a notation on the ticket to indicate which share of the ticket had been purchased by the buyer. During this period in England, a number of private lotteries were also run.

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The money of the private lotteries was used to raise funds for the Virginia Company to help establish settlers in Jamestown, America. The English State Lottery ran from 1694 till 1826. The constant pressure from the opposition forced the government to hold the last state lottery in 1826.

The first lottery in America was run in 1612, which was authorized by King James I of England. The rights to run the lottery were granted to the Virginia Company to help raise funds to establish settlers in the first permanent colony of Britishers in Jamestown, America. More than 200 lotteries were sanctioned in the United States between 1744 and 1776, and the funds were used to establish public libraries, roads, bridges, churches, canals, etc. The Princeton and Columbia universities were founded on money raised by lotteries. Lotteries were run in America to finance wars, establish educational institutions, and for public projects.

Running lotteries was adopted by many governments around the world as a means for raising funds for public projects without burdening the people with additional taxes. Lotteries are run today in many countries to help governments generate funds. Some countries have outlawed lotteries, as they prohibit any form of gambling.


Jennifer is a cat lover. You will always find her enjoying poker games while her cat sits on her lap. She is also a tech wizard and wishes to move into a completely AI controlled home.