The History of the Lottery


Throughout the centuries, the lottery has been used to raise money for a wide range of public projects. It has been a popular means for raising money for schools, colleges, hospitals, parks, libraries, bridges, roads and other projects. The word lottery originated from the Dutch noun “lot”, which means fate or luck.

During the 17th century, lotteries were very common in the Netherlands. Some towns held public lotteries to raise money for poor citizens, fortifications or for the construction of walls. Some colonies also used lotteries to finance local militias and the construction of colleges.

In the United States, lotteries were used to raise money for several public colleges. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts raised money with a lottery in 1758 for an expedition against Canada. In 1755, the University of Pennsylvania was financed by the Academy Lottery. In the 1740s, Princeton and Columbia Universities were financed by lotteries.

The first known modern European lotteries took place in the 15th century in the cities of Burgundy, Modena and Genoa. In some instances, private lotteries were used to sell products or to finance major government projects. There are several records of lotteries in the ancient Roman Empire. The Roman emperors used lotteries as a method for giving away property.

Many people have suggested that lotteries are a form of hidden tax. During the time of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress voted to establish a lottery to raise funds for the American Colonial Army. This project was later abandoned after thirty years. However, there was still a general desire for the use of lotteries.

In England, lotteries were a common method for raising money for a number of public projects. The English State Lottery ran from 1694 until 1826. In addition, a series of lotteries was licensed to raise money for the construction of an aqueduct in London in 1627.

While a small number of lotteries were tolerated in the United States, most were privately operated. The Virginia Company of London was one of the early sponsors of a settlement in America at Jamestown. In 1621, the House of Commons banned lotteries of the company. There was a bitter dispute within the company, which led to the ban of the lottery.

In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, several colonies held lotteries to fund local militias and the construction of fortifications and roads. By the end of the 18th century, there were 200 lotteries in the United States. Some of these were organized to raise funds for the construction of public buildings, such as Faneuil Hall in Boston. Other lotteries were devoted to the construction of roads and canals.

Some contemporary commentators ridiculed the final lottery of 1826. They argued that the prize money was too small and that the draw could not be conducted in a way to maximize the number of winners. In contrast, others argued that the lottery should be kept as simple as possible.

The Chinese Book of Songs mentions the game of chance as a “drawing of wood and lot”. It is also mentioned that the Han Dynasty (205-187 BC) produced lottery slips that helped finance important government projects.