History of Lotteries


Lotteries have a long and interesting history. In the 17th century, the Netherlands used lotteries to collect money for the poor and other public purposes. The lottery was popular and was hailed as a painless method of taxation. The first lottery in the United States was created by King James I of England in 1612. Throughout the centuries, lotteries have been used by private and public organizations to raise funds for wars, colleges, and other public-works projects.

In colonial America, the first lottery was run by George Washington. He designed it to fund Mountain Road in Virginia. Benjamin Franklin, another proponent of the lottery, supported its use to purchase cannons during the Revolutionary War. And in Boston, John Hancock conducted a lottery to rebuild Faneuil Hall. A 1999 report by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission described most colonial-era lotteries as unsuccessful. Yet, the lottery continued to develop in the United States for several years.

France’s lottery began in 1890, while Italy’s lottery began in 1792. France’s lottery was initially popular in Italy, where King Francis I introduced it in the 1500s. After the lottery gained popularity, the government began to distribute the funds and the money won. However, the lottery eventually became controversial, and the first French lottery, called the Loterie Royale, took place in 1539. An edict by Chateaurenard authorized the lottery, but the project proved to be a flop. Tickets cost too much to buy, and social classes resisted the project. The lottery was eventually banned in France for two centuries, although some states remained to operate it.