Many people have dreamt about what they would do if they were to win the lottery. But while that’s an engaging dream, there are plenty of real tales about the lottery that are genuinely interesting.
We’ve highlighted some of the most fascinating lottery stories, starting in ancient China and taking you all the way up to modern-day America. Let’s get started!
Lottery games originated in the Chinese Han Dynasty
Most good tales start at the beginning and the origin of the lottery can be traced back to the Chinese Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD).
The first recorded lottery games are dated between 205 and 187 BC. The evidence for this is in keno slips, a game where players bet on numbers ranging from 1 to 80.
Keno games in the Chinese Han Dynasty were used as a way of raising money for government projects. The saving of a city during a time of war and the Great Wall of China are two projects rumoured to have been funded by keno lottery games.
Today, keno is one of the most popular casino games in the world. It’s played both in noted land casinos and at respected gambling sites.
Lotteries were introduced to Europe by the Romans
So much of modern European history leads back to the Romans and the lottery is no expectation, with the great Empire responsible for bringing the game to Europe.
The first European lotteries were played at dinner parties, as a way of keeping guests entertained. People would get a ticket and this gave them the chance to win prizes like fancy plates or bowls.
Unlike modern games, lotteries of the Roman Empire guaranteed everyone a prize. Rather than being a game of chance with a few victors, early Roman lotteries were a way of passing out gifts at the time of the Saturnalian revelries (a festival honouring the god Saturn).
By the time of Emperor Augustus, lotteries were used by the Romans to pay for repairs in the City of Rome and provide funding for matters of state need.
Lottery tickets were introduced by the Low Countries
Tickets and money are two of the most important details in the story of the lottery. It’s the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) that the game has to thank for these two features.
The first recorded examples of lottery tickets with cash prizes being sold to people of Low Countries are from the 15th century. However, tickets with cash prizes could have an even longer history, with historical records from Bruges, Ghent and Utrecht suggesting so.
Lotteries were an important part of government finance collection by the 17th century. It was normal practice in the Netherlands for lotteries to be held as a means with which to raise money for the poor or to pay for public services.
Staatsloterij (the Dutch State Lottery) survives as a modern reminder of the popularity of lotteries in the Low Countries. It was founded in 1726, making it the oldest running lottery in the world!
Lotteries have the biggest prizes in the USA (by far!)
Our tales now bring us to present day lotteries, where the prizes can be huge and they’re at their largest in the United States.
Lotteries in the US are held in 45 US states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Powerball is available in all of these states and it’s the lottery that’s produced the largest prize to date, with a $1.586 billion (pre-tax) pot being shared among three winners in 2016.
Powerball can be played digitally but it’s far from the only example of how to buy lottery tickets online. You can buy Play USA Lotteries online and tickets for a range of US games that have massive cash prizes.
America certainly has the games with the largest prizes but the UK has a strong case for claiming it possesses the most generous lottery. The UK National Lottery has raised over £43 billion for good causes, with the money being used on over 630,000 projects.
Conclusion: the lottery has history of generating state funding
The lottery has a long history filled with interesting tales. It began in China and the biggest prizes can now be found in the US. But perhaps what’s most fascinating about the lottery is that it’s been used as a means of funding public services throughout its history.
The lottery might be a game that asks people to gamble some of their cash on the chance of winning a jackpot but it’s also a way of helping the poor and funding good causes.
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