The History of the Lottery


The history of the lottery can be traced back to ancient times. Ancient documents record lots being drawn to determine who owned land or other assets. The practice of drawing lots became more widespread in Europe in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In 1612, King James I of England created a lottery to help raise money for his Jamestown, Virginia settlement. From there, lottery funding was used for public and private purposes, including wars, college scholarships, and public-works projects.

Today, the lottery is legal in the majority of U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Sales figures for lottery draws in each of these jurisdictions have been reported by the National Association of State Lotteries. As of the end of 2004, forty states and the District of Columbia operated lottery games. By the end of that decade, the lottery was widespread throughout the Northeast. In addition to raising money for public projects, lotteries allowed governments to attract a large population of Catholics, who were generally tolerant of gambling activities.

A recent lottery case illustrates the difficulty of determining the true value of a lottery prize. In most cases, a lottery prize over $600 is taxable as personal income, and the lottery agency will deduct these taxes from the amount of the jackpot prize before awarding the prize. As such, winnings of $5,000 or more must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service before being claimed. However, New York state lottery draws require the player to declare their winnings as assets, which the ex-husband later discovered. Moreover, for those who are not U.S. citizens, tax withholding is higher than the standard federal and state income tax rates.