History of the Lottery

Categories : Gambling


Across the world, the lottery has become a popular method of raising funds for charitable and public purposes. In the United States, a variety of lotteries are used to finance public education, public projects, and various college and university programs. The lottery industry has been growing significantly over the years. In fiscal year 2019, the lottery sales in the US were estimated to be over $91 billion.

The earliest European records of lotteries date back to the early Roman Empire. Emperor Augustus held the first known lottery in 205 BC, using proceeds to rebuild the city of Rome. Other Roman emperors distributed slaves and property through lotteries. The Chinese Book of Songs mentions the game as “drawing of lots.”

In the Netherlands, lotteries were very common in the 17th century. Some of the earliest towns in the Low Countries held public lotteries to raise money for fortifications and for the poor.

By the end of the 17th century, many people believed that lotteries were a form of hidden tax. Philosophers like Voltaire complained that lotteries exploited the poor. Eventually, the lottery was outlawed in most of Europe.

In the 18th century, the lottery became an important source of revenue for religious congregations. It also financed many projects in Paris, including the St. Pantheon and 15 churches. By the middle of the 18th century, the amount generated by the lottery was so large that it created a battle between the monarchy and the church.