History of the Lottery


Throughout history, lotteries have proven popular as a way to raise money. Some governments support them while others outlaw them. The abuses of lotteries have added to the arguments against them.

Lotteries were first recorded in the Roman Empire. Emperor Augustus organized a lottery to raise funds for repairs to the city of Rome. Later, towns in Flanders and Burgundy held lotteries to raise money for fortifications and the poor.

In England, King James I authorized an English lottery. Private lotteries were common in the 17th century. The Virginia Company of London held many lotteries to raise money to support its settlement of America at Jamestown.

In the United States, private lotteries were also common. In 1755, the Academy Lottery financed the University of Pennsylvania. In 1758, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts raised money with a lottery for an “Expedition against Canada.”

Although most forms of gambling were outlawed in most of Europe by 1900, private lotteries continued in the United States. The Loterie Royale was the first French lottery. The tickets were extremely expensive.

A record from 9 May 1445 indicates that the Lotterie de L’Ecluse raised funds for fortifications, walls, and defenses. Another record mentions the sale of 4,304 tickets.

The first European public lottery was held in the Italian city-state of Modena. After World War II, the Loterie Nationale was restored.

Most lotteries are run by the state or local government. They usually collect money from ticket sales and give a portion of it to good causes. Some lotteries require that the winner’s name be publicly announced.