The History of the Lottery

In the United States, the lottery has a long and colorful history. It began in the Low Countries, where towns held public lotteries to raise funds for fortification and poor people. Although the practice of holding a lottery may seem quaint and out of touch today, the first recorded lotteries were held over four centuries ago. A record from L’Ecluse, France, dated 9 May 1445, mentions a town-wide lottery that raised 4,304 florins ($170,000 in 2014) and a few other projects.


The lottery was originally introduced to the United States by British colonists. Early opponents argued that lotteries were immoral and not a good way to raise money. In fact, between 1844 and 1859, ten states banned lotteries as a means to promote gambling. But today, the lottery is widely supported and has a long history of positive effects. It is the most popular type of gambling in the United States. And, it is one of the easiest ways to raise money, especially for local government projects.

The Dutch used lotteries to raise funds for the poor and other public needs. They proved popular and praised for their painlessness compared to other methods of taxation. The oldest lottery in the world, the Staatsloterij, began operating in 1726. Despite its controversial past, today’s lotteries remain a popular and lucrative way to spend taxes. The Dutch noun “lottery” derives from the Dutch word for “fate”.