The History of the Lottery


Lotteries are a common way to raise money for public purposes. In the early United States, the Continental Congress voted to create a lottery to raise money for the American Revolution. Though this scheme was abandoned within thirty years, smaller public lotteries grew in popularity and helped build several colleges in the new country. In England, colonial governments often used lotteries to sell property or other goods. The 1832 census recorded 420 lotteries in eight states.

Lottery prizes can be anything from a kindergarten placement to a housing unit. But the lottery can also bring big cash prizes. The National Basketball Association, for example, holds a lottery each year to determine who gets the best draft picks. The winning team then gets to choose the best college talent available.

The first recorded lotteries with money prizes were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century. Various towns held public lotteries in order to raise funds for the poor and for fortification. While it is unknown if these lotteries were around before the fifteenth century, town records in Ghent indicate that lotteries were held in that city as early as 1445. The record also mentions that a lottery of 4304 tickets brought in 1737 florins, which is equivalent to over US$170,000 today.

The lottery is a simple game. People buy tickets and put money into a single pot. The winning numbers are randomly chosen. The lottery is usually run by a state or city government. If people match their numbers, they win some money, while the rest goes to the government.