December 6, 2022

The History of Lotteries

Emily Tremblay
Written byEmily TremblayWriter
Researched byAishwarya NairResearcher

Lotteries have a long history. In fact, the modern-day online lotteries, with their irresistible features, all descended from the ancient practice of drawing from lots. Although the lottery experience has evolved considerably over the years, the basics that can be traced back to early human civilization remain unchanged.

The History of Lotteries

Understanding the origins of the word itself, lottery, can help trace the lineage of various lottery games over the centuries. For starters, the world lottery is borrowed from a Dutch word, 'lot,' meaning 'fate,' which expressly describes what these games of chance entail.

Ancient Lottery Games

While the name might have a Dutch connection, there is enough evidence that lottery games were around long before the Dutch coined the phrase in the 15th century. Historical evidence affirms that lotteries have been around for over 2,000 years.

The first lottery game can be traced to China, the "white pigeon game" organized in the Western Han Dynasty or Qin Dynasty. The ancient game can be likened to the modern-day Keno. At the time, the Chinese attached papers to pigeons, which delivered results to distant locations.

There is also evidence showing that lotteries were also popular in ancient Rome. However, lotto games were exclusive to the elite. These lotteries were played during special dinner parties, where the lucky winners were showed with gifts from the host. 

During Caesar Augustus' rule, citizens were also allowed to participate in lotteries with war loots offered as prize money. A portion of these lotteries' proceeds was channeled towards building the Roman Empire.

Middle Age Lottery Games

Although lotteries existed in ancient history, they were only established around the 15th century in Belgium and Netherlands. At this time, news of this 'new game' spread fast to neighboring European countries. And soon, lotteries resurfaced in Italy. Venice, Rome, and Florence are among the first Italian cities to organize lotteries. 

The respective government saw these games of chance as an opportunity to collect money to fund infrastructural projects. There are also records that some individuals lot-based games, offering various rewards, including cash, merchandise, and properties.

In England, Queen Elizabeth I is credited with organizing the first national lottery in 1566. The Queen was directly involved in the 1956 lottery. A draw was conducted in 1959, where 10,000 rewards were distributed to the lucky winners, with the Queen picking the winning balls herself.

Early Lotteries

The lottery trend surfaced in France 17th, with towns and small groups organizing lotteries in a bid to raise funds for rebuilding structures. However, King Louis XVI, alive to the potential threats posed by unregulated gambling, opted to ban all lottery games in the country, replacing them with a national lotto.

Portugal was the other country that jumped into the lottery trend in the 18th century, creating the Loteria Clasica. In Spain, the first lottery, El Gordo, was conducted in 1812. Interestingly, this Spanish exists to date, usually held around Christmas.

Modern Lotto

The history of modern lotto is believed to have started during the 1880s. This came about as many countries began introducing state-run lotteries. And as such, it is easy to follow the evolution of lottery games after this point.

As far as the regulation of industries is concerned, the laws have been improving with time. Also, the prizes have been getting better with time. As such, lotteries have spread worldwide, with most countries having their version of the lotto game.

In the 21st century, lotteries have gone mainstream, especially with the advent of online lotteries. From the gigantic US lottery Mega Millions, the Powerball, and Swedish Lotto to the Mega -Sena draw in Brazil, it is evident that lotteries continue to attract much interest as ever.

About the author
Emily Tremblay
Emily Tremblay

Emily, a dynamic blend of tech-savvy and casino enthusiast, hails from the snowy landscapes of Canada. With her innate grasp of cultural nuances, she ensures online casino guides resonate deeply with Canadians. Emily's spirited and engaging nature makes her a favourite among peers.

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