Different forms of lotteries have been important through history. Ancient Greece, India, China and Japan all had lotteries. Emperor Nero utilized lotteries for prizes at his parties. The Great Wall of China was partially financed through revenue from a lottery. The Bible mentions drawing lots in numerous sections as lot casting was the most popular means of communication between humans and God.
The Middle Ages
In 1420, lotteries were utilized in Europe for public works through the sale of high-value commodities like art and land. The first publicly recognized lottery was in 1530 in Florence, Italy. This money was raised to assist public works. The first English lottery began in 1566 and was also for public works. Centuries later, in 1753, the British Museum was completely funded by lottery revenue. England also had private lotteries but was so corrupt, they were abolished in 1699.
United States History
Lotteries have a long and diverse history across the globe. In the United States, lotteries became popular again in 1964 after years of decline. New Hampshire legalized lotteries because it is a low-stakes, low-excitement activity. At this time, drawings were held only twice per year and the pot was small. This version was modeled from the Irish sweepstakes in which the winning numbers were associated with a winning horse during a race.
Historians consider New Jersey to have the most successful lottery due to frequent drawings and much larger winnings. Once the Governor legalized the organized system, many states followed. To this day, most state lotteries are modeled after the New Jersey version.
The Domino Effect
Currently, lotteries are legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Since the implementation of the New Jersey lottery, the idea has spread across the country in a domino effect manner commonly found with gaming regulations. If a neighboring state has a lottery, any touching state is likely to also implement a lottery system. The migration began in the Northeast and spread west. The only areas that lotteries are illegal are the South, Alaska and Hawaii.
Lotteries and bingo are the most popular type of gambling. As a result, not only are state-run lotteries available to the public but many Native American tribes have also adopted this form of gambling to generate revenue.
Lotteries are a popular, legal (in most states) form of gambling that provides some excitement for a low cost while generating money for the state. In the future, perhaps Southern states, Alaska and Hawaii will jump on board and implement a system.