History of the Lottery

The lottery is an ancient practice that dates back to the Old Testament. The book of Exodus, for example, instructs Moses to take a census of the people of Israel and divide it by lot. Ancient Roman emperors also used lotteries to give away slaves and property. Lotteries were also popular forms of dinner entertainment; they were known as “apophoreta” or “that which is carried home.”

In the early nineteenth century, the Continental Congress voted to establish a lottery to help fund the American Revolution. The Continental Congress eventually abandoned the plan, but smaller public lotteries became common in Europe. Many American colleges and public works projects were financed by small public lotteries. The 1820s saw the gradual decline of lotteries, which were considered harmful to the public. Eventually, New York became the first state to prohibit lotteries.

After gaining popularity in the west, the lottery fever spread southward. At one point, 17 states and the District of Columbia began running their own lotteries. During the 1990s, six more states followed suit. North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Georgia were the next to launch their own lottery. Today, more than 1,200 applications have been submitted for retail and general lottery. The lottery can be played by any adult living in a state with a legal lottery.

The first recorded lotteries offered money prizes to players. The lottery was very popular in the Low Countries. The first French lotteries, called the Loterie Royale, were held in 1539. These public lotteries were widely popular and hailed as a way to pay taxes. A record of the first lottery in France dated 9 May 1445 mentions the sale of 4,304 tickets at a cost of ten florins, the equivalent of US$170,000 in 2014.