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History of the Lottery

Historically, lotteries were used to raise money for many causes. Various states in the United States and Europe held public lotteries to fund a variety of projects. They raised money for schools, libraries, colleges, roads, bridges, and fortifications.

The first known European lottery took place in the Roman Empire. It was called the “drawing of lots.” The book of the Chinese Song mentions a similar game of chance.

Roman Emperors used lotteries to give away slaves and property. Towns in Flanders and Burgundy held lotteries to raise money for defenses.

In the United States, the Louisiana Lottery was one of the last state-run lotteries until 1963. It had a reputation for corruption and bribery.

Alexander Hamilton wrote that the “public should be kept simple,” and that a lottery was a good alternative to taxes. He wrote that people would be willing to pay “trifling sums” for a chance to win “a great deal.”

The first modern lottery in Europe was held in the Italian city-state of Modena. The total prize money was equivalent to 1737 florins, which is US$170,000 in 2014.

In colonial America, there were over 200 lotteries between 1744 and 1776. They were usually organized so that a percentage of the profits was donated to a good cause. Several colonies held lotteries during the French and Indian Wars. In 1758, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts held a lottery for an “Expedition against Canada.”

There are three basic types of lotteries: the annuity lottery, which pays winners a fixed amount each year; the lottery with predetermined prizes; and the 50/50 drawing, which is a local event.