History of the Lottery


Founded by the Continental Congress to raise funds for the American Revolution, the lottery was eventually abandoned. However, many smaller public lotteries continued and eventually helped build several American colleges. Private lotteries were also common in the United States and England, and were often used to promote products and sell real estate. In 1832, the Boston Mercantile Journal reported that there were at least 420 private lotteries in eight states. In the United States, lottery laws have changed very little over the centuries, though the concept has been around for a long time.

Basic elements of lotteries

In order to collect stakes, lotteries must have a mechanism for collecting them. Most lotteries have a hierarchy of sales agents who pass the money for tickets up through the organization, which in turn banks the money. Depending on the country’s lottery rules, many national lotteries divide tickets into fractions, which cost slightly more than the whole ticket price. Agents then sell fractions to customers, who then place small stakes on them.


The history of lottery gambling goes back to ancient Greece and Rome. People used it to settle disputes, assign property rights, and fund unpopular jobs. During the Renaissance, lotteries became an extremely popular way to raise money for various projects. In Italy, Francis I modified tax laws to allow the sale of lottery tickets. Several cities then held public lottery drawings, and winners were awarded articles of unequal value. Today, lottery games are popular worldwide and continue to reward participants with prizes.


Lotteries have become popular in recent decades, with about 60 percent of adult Americans reporting that they play at least once a year. These games typically generate enormous amounts of revenue for state governments, which have the advantage of being able to spend the proceeds on public programs. While lotteries have been controversial in the past, they have maintained broad public support and have developed specific constituencies. Convenience store operators and suppliers are regular recipients of lottery revenue, which quickly acclimates state legislators to the extra revenue. In fact, the modern era of state lotteries began in 1964, with New Hampshire becoming the first state to begin a lottery. Since that time, no state has abolished its lottery.


One concern of many citizens is the cost of running a lottery. There are significant social costs associated with lottery spending, such as the increase in crime and undermining of the incentives to work hard and earn a living. Despite these costs, there is a general consensus that the benefits of lotteries far outweigh the costs. However, some states are considering selling off their lotteries to private companies, and Illinois recently handed over its lottery operations to a private firm. However, privatizing lottery operations is a recipe for exploitation.


Opponents of the lottery in Alabama believe it will increase gambling. They claim that it is “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” a scheme which benefits a bloated federal bureaucracy. They also argue that the money will go to waste, because the lottery will reduce state employment and increase unemployment. Opponents also fear that ticket proceeds will be diverted to other purposes. But a recent study from the National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that state legislators are already diverting money from the lottery to various uses.