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The History of Lotteries Around the World

Author: Neha Agrawal

It has been proven that the first recorded signs of people playing lotteries come from China, like many gambling games, between 205 BC and 187 BC. The game is thought to have originated very much like Keno, and also like Keno it is thought to have been designed mainly to raise funds for the construction of the Great Wall of China.

However, The Iliad, written by Homer, also refers to the drawing of lots in King Agamemnon’s helmet to determine who would eventually face Hector. This in itself is a simple form of lottery.

Europe’s first lotteries are known to have been held by the Romans, though these were more raffles than lotteries, played between a host and his guests for a prize. The first true Roman lottery tickets for sale were commissioned by Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor. Like the case in China, money was evidently raised to fund construction of sorts.

In Belgium and Holland (known then as the Low Countries) in the1400’s, lottery tickets continued to be sold in order to raise funds for construction, the Belgian cities of Ghent and Bruges, and the Dutch city of Utrecht have records of this happening, with one such record that reveals 4,304 tickets were sold with the lottery jackpot being 1,737 Florins. The Italians joined the hunt for lotteries shortly thereafter.

The first French lottery, the Loterie Royale, was held one hundred years later, followed by the English lottery, orchestrated by Queen Elizabeth I in 1566, though it wasn’t played for three years more. These were the first real lotteries to offer significant prizes, worth roughly the value of all the tickets purchased.

In 1612 the colony of Virginia was granted permission from King James I of England to introduce lotteries to raise money for construction. Within two years, Germany had its own lottery and Austria’s followed under one hundred and fifty years later.

In America, the lottery was deemed a poor man’s game and was cheap to play as such. However by 1964, lotteries were on the increase once more. With such vast sums of money now involved, it would seem hard to see how lotteries could ever have been a poor man’s game in the country. 2013 saw the start of lottery tickets being sold online in the United States.

Elsewhere, in the United Kingdom, lotteries have always been popular, and the setting up of the National Lottery in 1994 came as no surprise. However in recent years, the National Lottery has fallen to second place behind the larger Euro Millions lottery, founded in 2004.

The Euro Millions is today one of the world’s top paying lotteries, played by millions of people all over Europe. Lotteries are now so popular that tickets can be bought online in many countries. The story of lotteries like most gambling games has been a long one, however, unlike other gambling games; lotteries have never lost their appeal and have always remained popular.