The History of the Lottery


Drawing lots to decide who owns a piece of property dates back to ancient times. The Old Testament teaches that Moses was to make a census of people living in Israel and divide the land between them according to the number of people in the community. Lotteries were common throughout Europe in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In 1612, King James I of England devised a lottery to help finance the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. Throughout the centuries, governments, corporations, and private organizations have used the lottery to raise money for towns, wars, public-works projects, and even entertainment.

Some states, such as Colorado, have monopolies over their lottery. Others have banned or restricted the lottery, but allow adult residents to purchase tickets in their state. Currently, forty states operate lottery games, with a total of more than one million people involved in these games. In August 2004, forty states operated lotteries, making it possible for nearly 90% of the population of the United States to purchase a lottery ticket. A winning ticket entitles the owner to pay federal and state income taxes and a lifetime income tax.

Some countries use lotteries for military conscription, commercial promotions, and random giveaways of properties. Others use them to choose jury members among registered voters. No matter what the reason for the lottery, however, it must require payment in order to be considered legitimate. A recent study found that the number seven was drawn 115 times in Amarillo while the number eight came up 81 times. In this way, the lottery number 7 has the same probability of being drawn as any other number.