The history of lotteries can be traced back to Moses and the Bible. To award tracts of land west of the River Jordan, Moses used a lottery. It is also said that the construction of the Great Wall of China was financed by funds raised by lotteries, and that certain lottery forms date back to the time of Julius Caesar.
Lotteries flourished throughout Europe between the 15th and 17th centuries. In 1498, the Portuguese instituted a lottery to raise funds to help the underprivileged and meet the country’s monetary needs. Lotaria Nacional Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa, one of the world’s oldest continuously operating lotteries, was authorized in 1783 by Queen D. Maria Pia. But the Portuguese were not alone. In 1727, the Netherlands formed another of the oldest lotteries still running. In those days, the main purpose for creating a lottery was to replenish a country’s depleted funds so that it could finance its wars and the construction of roads and buildings.
The history of lotteries in North America followed a more tortuous path. After lotteries served to fund the Virginia Company, which established the first permanent English settlement in 1607, and Harvard University, lotteries became more widespread and less regulated. With corruption in privately operated lotteries rampant between 1820 and 1878, the State of New York passed the first constitutional prohibition of lotteries in the United States and Canada, and in 1878 all states except Louisiana prohibited lotteries.
Finally, state lotteries were created, starting with New Hampshire, followed by New York and New Jersey, where the world’s first on-line system was implemented in 1971. The first scratch-off lottery ticket, The Instant Game, printed by the Dittler Brothers lottery division, was introduced in 1974 by the Massachusetts State Lottery. The game proved extremely successful, delivering something no other lottery game had ever offered – instant money.
Between 1974 and 1976, 13 different U.S. lotteries followed suit, launching instant games, and, in 1977, Loto-Québec became the first Canadian lottery to launch an instant game: La loterie des Québécois. This was considered the lottery industry’s first low-tier game and included $2, $5 and $50 prizes, as well as a draw for the top prize of $100,000.
By the 1980s, instant sales in the U.S. surpassed $1 billion and 16 states sold instant games. Canadian lotteries, concerned that instant games might cannibalize their passive games, began introducing hybrid games.
Meanwhile, lotteries in the northeastern U.S. started to experiment with different ways to increase instant sales. These innovations included multiple-game marketing, new prize structures based on the Canadian model and less jackpot drawings for the top prize. The Massachusetts Lottery increased its payout from 50% to 60%, thus creating more churn as players began to reinvest their small winnings in the purchase of more tickets. As a result, the lottery’s instant sales doubled to $80 million. In 1985, this lottery’s sales tripled when it began direct distribution of tickets to retailers.
With instant sales thriving in the U.S., many state lotteries were launched between 1983 and 1990. By 1984, all Canadian lotteries offered instant games.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Queensland State Lottery of Australia was the first corporation to start lottery operations and the Irish Sweepstakes proved extremely popular in the American and Canadian markets because of the abolition of lotteries in both countries.
South Australia cautiously introduced the first instant-scratch game in that country and this was followed by the Cyprus Government Lottery in 1979. These Togel Online games were imitated by various European lotteries, although these countries also had concerns about their respective passive games.
Meanwhile, the Australian lotteries, which had incorporated many of the successful ideas developed in Canada and the U.S., revolutionized the industry with the concept of a true multi-price point strategy.
Lotteries in the Ancient and Medieval World
Scholars disagree on who started the ancient tradition of lotteries, but there are references in the Bible. In Chapter 26 in the Book of Numbers, Moses used a lottery to award land west of the River Jordan.
- 100-44 B. C.: Forms of lotteries date back to Caesar.
100 BC: The Hun Dynasty in China created keno. Funds raised by lotteries were used for defense, primarily to finance construction of the Great Wall of China.
1446: In one of the first recorded European lotteries, the widow of the Flemish painter Jan Van Eyck holds a raffle to dispose of his remaining paintings.
1465: Lotteries were held in Belgium to build chapels, almshouses, canals and port facilities.
1515: Six names were drawn for election to the Senate in Genoa, Italy; later the names were changed to numbers. The word “lottery” is believed to come from the Italian word “lotto”, meaning destiny or fate.
1530: Florence, Italy held a “Number Lottery” with cash prizes.
1539: King Francis I of France authorized a lottery to replenish depleted funds in the treasury. Many of these funds had been flowing to foreign lotteries.
List of winners, English lottery of February, 1569 1567: Queen Elizabeth I establishes the first English state lottery. Prizes include cash, plate and tapestry, with 400,000 tickets offered for sale.
1612: King James I of England, by royal decree, created a lottery in London. The proceeds were used to aid the first British colony in America – Jamestown, Virginia. Interestingly, Anglican churches held two of three winning tickets for the first draw.
List of Winners, English Lottery, February, 1569
1700s: Many of the Founding Fathers played and sponsored lotteries. Some examples:
- Benjamin Franklin used lotteries to finance the purchase of cannons for the Revolutionary War.
- John Hancock operated a lottery to rebuild historic Faneuil Hall in Boston.
- George Washington operated a lottery to finance construction of the Mountain Road, which opened westward expansion from Virginia.
- Thomas Jefferson, $80,000 in debt at the end of his life, used a lottery to dispose of the bulk of his property.
Mountain Road Lottery Ticket
1726: The Netherlands formed what is now the oldest lottery still in operation.
1753: A lottery was held in England for the establishment of the British Museum.
1775: Lotteries were authorized to raise money for the Colonial Army.
1776: Louis XV founded the Loterie Royale of the Military School (later on Saint-Cyr) in France. With the advent of this lottery, other lotteries were outlawed and the funds were used to reduce the State’s debts. The King thus created a monopoly, which became the forerunner of the Loterie Nationale.
1789: Lotteries were most active during the period following the adoption of the Constitution and prior to the establishment of effective means of local taxation and the wave of antilottery reform in the 1830s. Before 1790, America had only three incorporated banks. Therefore, lotteries were standard sources for public and private financing.
1790 to the Civil War: Fifty colleges, 300 schools and 200 churches were erected with lottery proceeds. Most notably, universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia were funded by lotteries.