History of Lottery Fundraising


Throughout history, lotteries have helped raise funds for a variety of public projects. Various states, cities, and colonies used the proceeds from lotteries to build schools, libraries, roads, fortifications, bridges, and canals. They also financed local militias and college campuses. They were tolerated in some cases and were hailed as a “painless tax.” In other instances, lotteries were condemned.

In the United States, the first modern government-run lottery was established in New Hampshire in 1964. Other governments have also endorsed lotteries. There are five regional lotteries in Canada, including the Western Canada Lottery Corporation, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. These lotteries provide various draw games and scratch cards, as well as sports betting.

Lotteries have been around for more than 250 years in England. King James I authorized a lottery in 1612, which was later called the English State Lottery. During this time, it financed colleges, such as Princeton and Columbia Universities. It was also used to pay for the Colonial Army, bridges, fortifications, and libraries. The last lottery in England was held in 1826.

A number of town records from the Low Countries and the Netherlands mention lotteries. A record from L’Ecluse, France, dated 9 May 1445, shows that a public lottery was held to raise money for fortifications and walls.

In addition to the State Lottery, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts also raised money for the “Expedition against Canada” in 1758 with a lottery. The Virginia Company of London supported settlement in America at Jamestown. The company’s director, Bernard Moore, held a “Slave Lottery” in 1769, advertising prizes of slaves and land. The ticket holder was assured of winning something. The prize was a fraction of the advertised jackpot, and was often only a few hundred dollars.

The Chinese Book of Songs refers to a game of chance as the “drawing of lots”. The Han Dynasty of China had a lottery slip dating from 205-187 BC, which is said to have helped finance major government projects.

The Roman Empire, which ruled much of Europe from the fourth to the eighth century, held lotteries at dinner parties. Many wealthy noblemen distributed tickets with prizes in the form of money or articles of unequal value. In Germany, the first big lottery was held in Hamburg in 1614. The Loterie Royale was a fiasco. In the 17th and 18th centuries, numerous private lotteries were held to help fund the settlement of America. In 1755, the Academy Lottery financed the University of Pennsylvania. In the 1740s, several lotteries were held to support college tuition and local militias.

In the US, most forms of gambling were illegal by 1900. However, casinos and other lotteries began to reappear in the 1960s.

Lotteries can be played on a range of platforms, from websites to online casinos. They are usually sold as a one-time payment, which is lower than the advertised jackpot, or in an annuity, which provides a fixed percentage of the prize. The difference between the two is based on the odds of winning, which vary wildly.