The History of the Lottery

The first lotteries were popular in the Netherlands in the 17th century to raise funds for poor people. In fact, they were so popular that the Dutch government started running them, and it was considered a relatively painless tax. One of the oldest lotteries in existence is the Staatsloterij. The word lottery is derived from the Dutch noun “lot” meaning “fate.” In other words, the lottery is a form of taxation.


The first recorded lotteries date to the Chinese Han Dynasty, which was 205-187 BC. In ancient China, lotteries were a popular way to raise money for major government projects. The Chinese Book of Songs even mentions the game of chance, referring to it as “the drawing of lots or wood.” But the Chinese lottery is a relatively new concept, originating in France. This is not the first instance of lottery play.

The practice of dividing property by lot is an ancient one. The Old Testament teaches Moses to divide land among the Israelites by lot. In the nineteenth century, the Roman emperors held their own lotteries to distribute property and slaves. The lottery was popular in ancient Rome and England and was used to sell property and products. In 1832, the Boston Mercantile Journal reported that there were 420 lotteries across eight states.