The History of the Lottery

The practice of dividing property by lot is as old as the Jewish and Roman faiths. In the Old Testament, Moses was commanded to take a census of Israel’s people and then divide the land by lot. Roman emperors, on the other hand, used lotteries to distribute property and slaves. Lotteries were also used in ancient Rome, where a Greek word called apophoreta (that which is carried home) was used to describe the game.

The United States currently operates 75 state lotteries, accounting for about 40-45 percent of world lottery sales. By the end of the 1970s, twelve states had their own lottery systems, and the lottery was well entrenched in the Northeast. Lottery sales helped fund government programs while attracting a Catholic population that had been previously opposed to gambling. The lottery was an extremely popular and successful way for states to raise money for public works. By the 2000s, more than 90% of the U.S. population had bought a lottery ticket.

The top prize amount in most lottery games is $600. In the US, lottery prizes over this value are reported to the Internal Revenue Service. In New York, lottery agencies deduct taxes from winnings before awarding large prizes. In Missouri, for example, a lottery awarded sixty trips to Las Vegas with $500 in spending money each. However, the winning tickets included the payment of federal and state income taxes. Aside from these prizes, many lottery games are inexpensive and accessible to the public.