The History of the Lottery


The first state to create a lottery was New York, in 1967. It earned $53.6 million in its first year and encouraged residents of neighboring states to purchase tickets. The practice spread quickly, with twelve more states establishing lotteries by the end of the decade. It was an effective way to raise money for public projects without raising taxes, and it also drew the attention of a Catholic population that was generally tolerant of gambling.

The lottery has a long history, and its origins are ancient. It is believed that lottery slips were created in the Han Dynasty and helped finance important government projects. The Chinese Book of Songs even mentions that lottery games were first played during the Han Dynasty, and it was often referred to as a “drawing of wood.”

The New York lottery is the most profitable, with cumulative sales exceeding $23 billion. Its results are different in other states, but every state has enjoyed growth. In FY 2006, the New York lottery accounted for 28% of all lottery profits nationwide. It has paid out the largest number of cumulative prizes, with Massachusetts and New Jersey accounting for over half of total lottery sales in those states. The allocation of lottery profits by state is shown in table 7.2. Since 1967, $234.1 billion has gone to various beneficiaries. New York topped the list with $30 billion, followed by California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Early European lotteries have a long history. In the 1500s, Francis I introduced public lotteries in France. The money raised from the lottery was used for poor people’s welfare and for fortification. The lottery’s success paved the way for its modern history. The French government also permitted public lotteries in several cities in the 1520s. In 1539, France made it legal for lottery games in several cities. In Italy, the first lottery was held in Genoa.

The United States has forty state lotteries, and the majority of the population has access to one or more. In August 2004, there were approximately forty states that operated lottery games. In all, ninety percent of U.S. residents played a lottery. In South Carolina, the average lottery player spends about $70 per week. A lottery ticket is available to any adult physically present in the state where the lottery is operated. The lottery’s popularity is so widespread, that even a high school educated person can purchase a lottery ticket and play the lottery.

The number chosen for the lottery is entirely random. The numbers come up at random and no one knows which numbers will come up more often. But officials have strict rules in place to prevent “rigging” the results. Because of this, it is possible for the results to be quite strange. In one recent draw, for instance, 7 came up 116 times, whereas 8 came up 81 times. Despite the high odds of 7 being chosen, there’s no way to predict whether the lottery winner will win.

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