Origins of Lottery Games


The National Association for State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL) recently released its sales figures for the 2003 year. The numbers show that sales of lottery tickets in each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico declined from 2002. Only Delaware, which had a 6.8% decline, experienced a significant decline. In contrast, West Virginia, Florida, and Puerto Rico saw sales increase by more than a third. In the Northeast, sales rose by as much as 21.5%.


The lottery game dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. Its use has evolved to benefit charities, pay for major government projects, and settle legal disputes. The first known lotteries took place in the Roman Empire at dinner parties. Participants were given tickets and winners received articles of unequal value. Today, lottery games are a global phenomenon that can benefit participants in a variety of ways. Listed below are some of the major origins of lottery games.

Origins in Europe

The origins of lottery in Europe are not entirely clear. There is some evidence that the practice began in the seventeenth century in the Netherlands. Several government schemes involved raising money for the poor and public projects. The practice was soon popular, and it became a common way to tax citizens. The word ‘lottery’ comes from the Dutch word for chance or fate. In England, the lottery was first created in 1856.

Origins in the U.S.

The U.S. lottery dates back to 1616 when the Continental Congress held a lottery to raise money for the American Revolution. The funds raised by the lottery were used to help establish Jamestown, Virginia, and many other early American settlements. Eventually, the original thirteen colonies established their own lotteries, and the concept of lottery play became a social responsibility. Many early lotteries even helped fund important institutions such as Harvard University, Columbia University, Dartmouth University, and other educational institutions.

Origins in the Northeast

The lottery has been a part of U.S. life for more than two centuries. During the Middle Ages, wealthy noblemen used to hold lottery-style drawings to determine ownership and rights of land. By the mid to late-16th century, it was common throughout Europe to draw lots to determine ownership. The lottery first became tied to the government in 1612, when King James I of England instituted a lottery to raise funds for his colony in Jamestown, Virginia. As lottery-style betting spread throughout the world, many public and private organizations used it to raise money for construction, wars, colleges, and other projects.

Problems facing the lottery industry

Aside from generating tax revenue, the lottery also has a number of drawbacks. If it was a good idea to give every person in the country a chance to win a $20 million jackpot, it would cost taxpayers more than $20 per loaf of bread. This is not an economic neutrality issue, however. Many states have earmarked a portion of lottery revenue for specific purposes. But in many cases, officials are gaming the system to ensure that as much money as possible goes to the lottery companies. This means that even powerball jackpot winners are unlikely to benefit from the money.