Menu Close

History of the Lottery


Unlike the modern lottery, which is run by a nonprofit corporation, the lottery began its history during the early 17th century, when the Continental Congress voted to establish a lottery to raise money for the American Revolution. Though it proved to be a failed attempt, smaller public lotteries continued to flourish and were often used to build college campuses. In the United States, private lotteries soon became common and grew in number, too. In Connecticut, for instance, the state legislature granted Yale a license to operate a PS3,200 lottery in 1747. Harvard, on the other hand, had to wait until 1765 to get approval to conduct a lottery worth PS3,200.

A California woman won a $1.3 million lottery jackpot in 2001, but lost the money. She sought advice from lottery officials and was advised to file for divorce before her first annuity check arrived. Unfortunately, she never disclosed the lottery money during the divorce proceedings and her ex-husband discovered this fact. Since lottery tickets were not required to be declared as assets during divorce proceedings, a California court can award a spouse 100% of an undisclosed asset, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.

In the seventeenth century, lotteries were common in the Netherlands. They raised money for the poor and a wide range of public needs. The popularity of these games made them popular, and people began to see them as a relatively painless form of taxation. In 1612, King James I of England partnered with a local company to create a lottery to help fund the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. After that, the lottery was used to fund public works projects, wars, and towns.

As an aside, the NGISC report does not provide evidence that lotteries target the poor. In fact, this would be counterproductive from a political and business perspective. Furthermore, lottery players often buy tickets outside of their own neighborhoods. Interestingly, the areas associated with low-income residents are often also populated by higher-income shoppers and workers. In contrast, high-income residential neighborhoods have relatively few lottery outlets and few stores. This suggests that the majority of people do not purchase lottery tickets in their neighborhood.

According to the NASPL Web site, nearly 186,000 retailers sell lottery tickets. The largest number of lottery retailers is in New York and California. These states, with a population of 70% African-Americans, spent the most money on lottery tickets in fiscal year 2002. By the end of the decade, twelve other states had set up their own lottery. The lottery soon became widely popular in the Northeast. In these areas, it was an easy way to fund public projects without raising taxes. While Catholic populations generally tolerate gambling, the lottery proved to be an effective way to attract a diverse audience and promote social harmony.

Although winning the lottery is exciting, the process of claiming your prize can be embarrassing. For example, some lotteries require winners to publicize their name and P.O. box, and some choose to change their phone number. Others choose to establish a blind trust to keep their identity out of the spotlight. However, no matter how much you win, the lottery is still a very valuable and fun way to spend your winnings. Just remember to enjoy yourself!