Chronicles Of The Game
the dawn of time, Man has believed in Destiny. The term
"lottery" derives from lotto, the Italian word
for Destiny, or fate.
The history of lotteries can be traced back
to Moses and the Bible. To award tracts of land west of
the River Jordan, Moses used a lottery. It is also said
that the construction of the Great Wall of China was
financed by funds raised by lotteries, and that certain
lottery forms date back to the time of Julius Caesar.
Lotteries flourished throughout Europe
between the 15th and 17th centuries. In 1498, the
Portuguese instituted a lottery to raise funds to help
the underprivileged and meet the country's monetary
needs. Lotaria Nacional Santa Casa da Miseric-rdia de
Lisboa, one of the world's oldest continuously operating
lotteries, was authorized in 1783 by Queen D. Maria Pia.
But the Portuguese were not alone. In 1727, the
Netherlands formed another of the oldest lotteries still
running. In those days, the main purpose for creating a
lottery was to replenish a country's depleted funds so
that it could finance its wars and the construction of
roads and buildings.
The history of lotteries in North America
followed a more tortuous path. After lotteries served to
fund the Virginia Company, which established the first
permanent English settlement in 1607, and Harvard
University, lotteries became more widespread and less
regulated. With corruption in privately operated
lotteries rampant between 1820 and 1878, the State of
New York passed the first constitutional prohibition of
lotteries in the United States and Canada, and in 1878
all states except Louisiana prohibited lotteries.
Finally, state lotteries were created,
starting with New Hampshire, followed by New York and
New Jersey, where the world's first on-line system was
implemented in 1971. The first scratch-off lottery
ticket, The Instant Game, printed by the Dittler
Brothers lottery division, was introduced in 1974 by the
Massachusetts State Lottery. The game proved extremely
successful, delivering something no other lottery game
had ever offered - instant money.
Between 1974 and 1976, 13 different U.S.
lotteries followed suit, launching instant games, and,
in 1977, Loto-QuŽbec became the first Canadian lottery
to launch an instant game: La loterie des QuŽbŽcois.
This was considered the lottery industry's first
low-tier game and included $2, $5 and $50 prizes, as
well as a draw for the top prize of $100,000.
By the 1980s, instant sales in the U.S.
surpassed $1 billion and 16 states sold instant games.
Canadian lotteries, concerned that instant games might
cannibalize their passive games, began introducing
Meanwhile, lotteries in the northeastern
U.S. started to experiment with different ways to
increase instant sales. These innovations included
multiple-game marketing, new prize structures based on
the Canadian model and less jackpot drawings for the top
prize. The Massachusetts Lottery increased its payout
from 50% to 60%, thus creating more churn as players
began to reinvest their small winnings in the purchase
of more tickets. As a result, the lottery's instant
sales doubled to $80 million. In 1985, this lottery's
sales tripled when it began direct distribution of
tickets to retailers.
With instant sales thriving in the U.S.,
many state lotteries were launched between 1983 and
1990. By 1984, all Canadian lotteries offered instant
At the beginning of the 20th century, the
Queensland State Lottery of Australia was the first
corporation to start lottery operations and the Irish
Sweepstakes proved extremely popular in the American and
Canadian markets because of the abolition of lotteries
in both countries.
South Australia cautiously introduced the
first instant-scratch game in that country and this was
followed by the Cyprus Government Lottery in 1979. These
games were imitated by various European lotteries,
although these countries also had concerns about their
respective passive games.
Meanwhile, the Australian lotteries, which
had incorporated many of the successful ideas developed
in Canada and the U.S., revolutionized the industry with
the concept of a true multi-price point strategy.
Lotteries in the Ancient and Medieval
Scholars disagree on who started the
ancient tradition of lotteries, but there are references
in the Bible. In Chapter 26 in the Book of Numbers,
Moses used a lottery to award land west of the River
c. 100-44 B. C.: Forms of lotteries date back to
100 BC: The Hun Dynasty in China created keno.
Funds raised by lotteries were used for defense,
primarily to finance construction of the Great Wall of
1446: In one of the first recorded European
lotteries, the widow of the Flemish painter Jan Van Eyck
holds a raffle to dispose of his remaining paintings.
1465: Lotteries were held in Belgium to build
chapels, almshouses, canals and port facilities.
1515: Six names were drawn for election to the
Senate in Genoa, Italy; later the names were changed to
numbers. The word "lottery" is believed to
come from the Italian word "lotto", meaning
destiny or fate.
1530: Florence, Italy held a "Number
Lottery" with cash prizes.
1539: King Francis I of France authorized a
lottery to replenish depleted funds in the treasury.
Many of these funds had been flowing to foreign
1567: Queen Elizabeth I establishes the first
English state lottery. Prizes include cash, plate and
tapestry, with 400,000 tickets offered for sale.
1612: King James I of England, by royal decree,
created a lottery in London. The proceeds were used to
aid the first British colony in America - Jamestown,
Virginia. Interestingly, Anglican churches held two of
three winning tickets for the first draw.
Winners, English Lottery, February, 1569
1700s: Many of the Founding Fathers played and
sponsored lotteries. Some examples:
&187; Benjamin Franklin used lotteries to
finance the purchase of cannons for the Revolutionary
&187; John Hancock operated a lottery to
rebuild historic Faneuil Hall in Boston.
&187; George Washington operated a lottery to
finance construction of the Mountain Road, which
opened westward expansion
&187; Thomas Jefferson, $80,000 in debt at
the end of his life, used a lottery to dispose of the
of his property.
Mountain Road Lottery Ticket
1726: The Netherlands formed what is now the
oldest lottery still in operation.
1753: A lottery was held in England for the
establishment of the British Museum.
1775: Lotteries were authorized to raise money
for the Colonial Army.
1776: Louis XV founded the Loterie Royale of the
Military School (later on Saint-Cyr) in France. With the
advent of this lottery, other lotteries were outlawed
and the funds were used to reduce the State's debts. The
King thus created a monopoly, which became the
forerunner of the Loterie Nationale.
1789: Lotteries were most active during the
period following the adoption of the Constitution and
prior to the establishment of effective means of local
taxation and the wave of antilottery reform in the
1830s. Before 1790, America had only three incorporated
banks. Therefore, lotteries were standard sources for
public and private financing.
1790 to the Civil War: Fifty colleges, 300
schools and 200 churches were erected with lottery
proceeds. Most notably, universities such as Harvard,
Yale, Princeton and Columbia were funded by lotteries.
Harvard College Lottery Ticket