Lotteries have an ancient, venerable and somewhat checkered history. There are many biblical references to the drawing of lots to award ownership and in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 26, Moses uses a lottery to award land west of the River Jordan. In the New Testament, Roman soldiers drew lots to decide who would get Jesus’ cloak after the Lotterysambad.

In 100 BC, the Hun Dynasty in China created the lottery game known as Keno. Most of the funds raised were used to finance the construction of the Great Wall, intended as a perimeter defense. Winning the lottery was less important than defending the country.

Origin of Modern Lotteries

The first recorded European lottery was held in 1446 by the widow of the Flemish painter Jan Van Eyck to dispose of his remaining paintings. Winning this lottery would have given you a prize worth mega millions today!

Encyclopedia Britannica states that the lottery as we know it dates back to 15th century France where it was used by individual towns to raise money for strengthening the town’s defenses (Europe has a strong tradition of citizens considering themselves as belonging to a city rather than a state or even a country, for example, a citizen would think of him or herself as a Roman, rather than an Italian.) King Francis I of France allowed lotteries to operate from 1520, and the first municipal lottery to offer money as a prize was La Lotto de Firenze, run by the city of Florence in 1530. Other cities in Italy soon followed suit.

In 1567, Queen Elizabeth I established the first English state lottery, with prizes including cash, gold and silver plate, and tapestries. 400,000 tickets were offered for sale. For a while, how to win the lottery was a question on all the citizens’ lips.

In 1612, King James I of England created a lottery in London by royal decree. The proceeds helped to finance the first British colony in America at Jamestown, Virginia. Anglican churches held two of the three winning tickets in the first draw!

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