A lottery is a game of chance in which people pay for the opportunity to win prizes.
The English word “lottery” is derived from the Dutch noun “lot“ meaning “fate”.
The practice of determining the distribution of property by lot is traceable to ancient times. Among dozens of biblical examples is one in the Old Testament (Numbers 26:55–56) that has the Lord instructing Moses to take a census of the people of Israel and to divide the land among them by lot.
Roman emperors such as Nero and Augustus used lotteries to give away property and slaves during Saturnalian feasts and other entertainments. A popular dinner entertainment in ancient Rome was the apophoreta (Greek: “that which is carried home”), in which the host distributed pieces of wood with symbols on them and then toward the end of the evening had a drawing for prizes that the guests took home.
The first recorded lotteries to offer tickets for sale with prizes in the form of money were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century. Various towns held public lotteries to raise money for town fortifications, and to help the poor. The town records of Ghent, Utrecht, and Bruges indicate that lotteries may be even older. A record dated 9 May 1445 at L’Ecluse refers to raising funds to build walls and town fortifications, with a lottery of 4,304 tickets and total prize money of 1737 florins (worth almost US$200,000 today).
Queen Elizabeth I chartered a general lottery in England in 1566 to raise money for repairing harbours and other public purposes.
In 1612 the Virginia Company obtained permission from King James I for a lottery to help in financing the settlement of Jamestown in the New World.
The first big lottery on German soil was held in 1614 in Hamburg.
In the 17th century it was quite usual in the Netherlands to organize lotteries to collect money for the poor or in order to raise funds for a wide range of public usages. The lotteries proved very popular and were hailed as a painless form of taxation. The Dutch state-owned Staatsloterij is the oldest running lottery (1726).
In Austria the first lottery was drawn in 1751, during the reign of Empress Maria Theresia, and was named Lotto di Genova since it was based on 90 numbers.
An early American lottery, conducted by George Washington in the 1760s, was designed to finance construction of the Mountain Road in Virginia. Benjamin Franklin supported lotteries to pay for cannons during the American Revolution. John Hancock ran a lottery to finance the rebuilding of Faneuil Hall in Boston. Lotteries fell into disfavor in the 1820s because of concerns that they were harmful to the public. New York was the first state to pass a constitutional prohibition against them.
Although lotteries were common in the United States and some other countries during the 19th century, by the beginning of the 20th century, most forms of gambling, including lotteries and sweepstakes, were illegal in the U.S. and most of Europe as well as many other countries. This remained so until well after World War II. In the 1960s, casinos and lotteries began to re-appear throughout the world as a means for governments to raise revenue without raising taxes.
The largest lottery jackpot is $1,586,400,000 (€1,463,600,000, £1,098,200,000), won in the Multi-State Lottery Association’s (USA) Powerball, by 3 individuals throughout USA, on 13 January 2016.
Ahead of the draw the National Lottery has shared the top six most drawn Lotto balls since 1994, which are: 23, 38, 31, 25, 33 and 11.
The most frequently pulled Powerball numbers are 1, 26, 18, 10, 2, 12, 11, 9, 6, and 20.
A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that people in Sweden who won large sums of money from the lottery tended to retain their wealth over a period of 10 years, often kept their jobs but took more vacation, and maintained or increased their happiness and mental health. The same study states that the common anecdote that “70% of people who receive a large influx of money will lose it within a few years” is false, and is falsely attributed to the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE). NEFE released a statement disassociating themselves from the claim.