The National Lottery. Fun and harmless pastime, enjoyed by millions. For most people playing the lottery means picking up their ticket on a Saturday afternoon together with their weekly shop, or better still (as I hope that you do) buying tickets online. Lotteries are a relatively simple concept which most people take for granted. Other than the thrill of winning a £1,000,000 there’s not much to it you might say. Oh, but you’d be wrong, so very, very wrong. Here are 10 amazing lottery facts that nobody seems to know.
Lottery games date back to as early as between 205 and 187 B.C”]During the Han Dynasty in China. Lotteries were used to fund various government projects, one of which was the building of the Great Wall of China.
Evidence of lotteries have been found in many ancient civilizations from Ancient China to the Celts. In Homer’s The Iliad, the ancient Greek text chronicling the Trojan wars, there is a reference to lots being placed into Agamemnon’s helmet to determine who would fight Hector.
The earliest lottery in Europe took place during the reign of Augustus Caesar”]Lotteries at that time were often simply amusement for the nobility at dinner parties. However there are records of the sale of tickets for a lottery in order to raise funds for repairs to the City of Rome
The first public lottery in Europe was held in 1434 in the the Dutch town of Sluis. It wasn’t until at least a decade later however, that the first lotteries with prize money began to appear. Held in numerous towns in Flanders (Belgium, Holland, France), these lotteries were held to raise money to aid the poor and fund fortifications of the towns. They were hailed as a less painful form of taxation and were quite popular with the people. The English word lottery is derived from the Dutch word loterij which stems from the Dutch noun lot meaning ‘fate’.
The first recorded British lottery was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I in 1566″]The lottery was to raise funds for the “reparation of the havens and strength of the Realme, and towardes such other publique good workes”. This lottery was very different from previous lotteries as each ticket holder won a prize. The total value of the prizes given out equaled the amount of money raised. This effectively made the money raised by the lottery a loan to the government over the 3 years that tickets were sold.
The first English lottery drawn in America was approved by King James I in 1612. Granted to the Virginia Company of London it helped them found the first permanent English settlement in America, ‘Jamestown’.
Princeton, Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania were all financed by lotteries. In fact lotteries played a significant role in financing the building of the colonies. Records show that over 200 lotteries were permitted in the period between 1744 and the American Revolution. These lotteries played a vital role in the funding of roads, libraries, churches, colleges, bridges, and other public works.
By the late 19th century lotteries became known for mismanagement and scandals. The Louisiana State Lottery (1868-1892) became the most notorious state lottery and was known as the “Golden Octopus” as it reached into every American home. The Louisiana lottery especially was a breeding ground for corruption having bribed legislators into a fraudulent deal. In July of 1890 President Harrison sent a message to Congress insisting that severe and effective legislation be enacted against lotteries. Congress agreed and banned US mails from carrying lottery tickets. In 1892 a law was upheld to put a complete halt to all lotteries in the US by 1900.
The writer and philosopher Voltaire made a fortune from a lottery scam. Read more about Voltaire’s lottery scam – How Voltaire Conspired to Win the Lottery.
In Stockholm, Sweden, there is a speed camera lottery. The speed camera photographs the license plates of drivers doing the speed limit, as well as those who are speeding. The people who are obeying the law have their license plates placed into a lottery and receive a portion of the money collected from those who are speeding.