The lottery history guide

The lottery history guide

The lottery history guide.Nowadays Lottery players all over the world are able to participate in the world’s biggest and best international lotto games, thanks to the internet. This is a long way away from the origin of the game, yet the basic concept which dates back to the earliest human civilizations is still relatively the same.

Origin of the word “lotto”

The origin of the word “lotto” is believed to come from the Italian word “lotto”, meaning destiny or fate, the Dutch also lay claim to the word with the exact same meaning. However, interesting enough, in Ancient Greek mythology Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades used sortation (also known as selection by lot, allotment, or demarchy) to determine who ruled over which domain. After playing the “game of chance”, Zeus got the sky, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the underworld.

There are numerous articles about the history of lotteries and delving into all of them we established that these events were not always documented and the title holder of the very first lottery is still rather unclear.
Lotteries in the Ancient World

Lottery games aren’t products of the modern age and although the US Powerball   and Mega Millions are newer lotto games, the basic structure of the game has been around since ancient times.

100-44 BC:
The Ancient Romans played various forms of lottery. The Roman elite used to have draws after dinner parties with lavish prizes on offer. However, most of the best prizes ‘somehow’ found their way to the most influential members.

Augustus Caesar later introduced a lottery that all citizens of Rome were able to participate in. Prizes up for grabs comprised of treasures the army had brought back from their latest conquests. Proceeds from the lottery were used to fund the upkeep of the public streets and buildings.

100 BC:
Historians traced a version of a lottery back to the Ancient Chinese Western Han Dynasty.  The game played was known as the ‘white pigeon game.’ It’s basically a form of Keno and got its name due to the fact that birds were used to send the results of the draws out to far-flung villages.

Like just about all lotto games in Ancient times, the proceeds raised were used for defense and to build the Great Wall of China.

One of the first recorded European lotto games took place when the widow of the Flemish painter Jan Van Eyck, held a raffle to dispose of her husband’s remaining paintings.

In the coastal region of north-western Europe, including Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and towns would hold lotteries. The idea was to build fortifications, chapels, alms-houses, canals, port facilities and to help the poor.

Looking at Europe’s SuperEnalotto game, for example, we can see that not much has actually changed, other than the fact that there are much stricter regulations. Lotteries are still funding good causes with a portion of the funds raised from ticket sales going to education or other public works. The best part is and always will be the fact that we all still stand that chance to become instant millionaires with just one ticket.

Lotteries were a part of British settlements in America from the very beginning in order to fund libraries, churches and colleges. In 1616, instant win tickets were sold and people could find out if they won a prize immediately after buying a ticket, similarly to scratch card tickets as we know them today.

During the 1700s there were quite a few Founding Fathers that played a role when it came to lotteries:
The first was Benjamin Franklin who used lotteries as a way in which to finance cannons for the Revolutionary War.
John Hancock also operated several lotteries and the funds were used to rebuild the historic Faneuil Hall in Boston.
George Washington was another Founding Father who operated a lottery. The proceeds raised were used to finance construction of the Mountain Road, which enabled the westward expansion from Virginia.

In France, Louis XV founded the Loterie Royale. Due to this new lotto game, all other lotteries were outlawed and the funds were used to reduce the State debts. The King thus created a monopoly, which became the forerunner of the France lotto we know today.

In 1789 lotteries were used between the adoption of the American Constitution and before the introduction of local taxation. Before 1790, America had only three incorporated banks and lotteries were a standard sources for public and private financing.

1790 to the Civil War:
Funds created by lotteries created 50 colleges, 300 schools and 200 churches. Universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia were funded by lotteries.

1790 to 1860:
Between 1790 and 1860, 24 of the 33 states saw improvements to courthouses, jails, hospitals, orphanages, and libraries through lottery ticket sales. 

1820 – 1878:
From 1820 to 1878 corruption in privately operated lotto games was extremely prevalent. Quite a few lotteries awarded fewer prizes than advertised or awarded no prizes at all. Governments found themselves unable to regulate these lotteries and as a result began to consider prohibition.

Congress banned all lottery materials from the mail.

Congress banned all lottery materials from interstate commerce.

In 1912 “Totalizer” was legalized. This made betting at racetracks the only legal betting place in Canada.

The first lottery to start operation in the 20th century was Queensland State Lottery of Australia.

Nationale Loterij Van Belgieis the largest operator of lotteries in Belgium launched its first lotto game in 1934. It was known as Colonial Lottery and created to raise money for the ailing Belgian Congo.

The first legal lottery was created in New Hampshire. It was called a “Sweepstakes” and tied to horse races.

New York followed suit and became the second state to create a lottery.

In 1969 the Criminal code of Canada was amended and gambling was legalized. This gave the provinces the authority to operate lotteries and casinos. Licenses were allotted as long as proceeds went towards charitable or religious organizations.

Lottery sales in America surpassed the $100 million mark for the first time.
The first instant win game was created in Illinois.

The Big Game (Mega Millions as it is now known) began with Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan and Virginia as its initial members.

In the same year, the US Powerball lottery broke its own record for the largest jackpot in history when it rolled over to a massive $295.7 million.

The largest single-winning ticket is won amounting to $104 million. The winner is Maria Grasso from Boston, who won the incredible life-changing lotto prize on the Big Game (Mega Millions).

Mexico, France and Japan create their own lotteries. The International Association of State Lotteries totals 63 member nations.

On May 9, the largest lottery jackpot in history was shared by winners from Michigan and Illinois. Both winners of the Big Game opted to take the once-off lump sum cash payment of approximately $90 million. The jackpot was worth an incredible $363 million.

The EuroJackpot was launched on the 23rd of March 2012. In the same year, the Mega Millions rolled over and took the title of the biggest jackpot in history when it reached $656 million. Three ticket holders shared the top jackpot prize.

2016 saw the US Powerball smash all previous jackpot records when it rolled over to an unprecedented $1.586 billion!  Three tickets shared the top jackpot prize.

In 2017, Mavis Wanczyk used birthdays to choose her lottery numbers and she ended up winning $758.7 million on the US Powerball.

In 2018 the Mega Millions jackpot came incredibly close to beating the $1.586 billion US Powerball jackpot. It, however, rolled over just short of the record reaching $1.537 billion. It might not have taken the title of the biggest lottery jackpot in history but it did take the title of the biggest single ticket lottery prize.
2018 also saw significant rule changes to the UK Lottery. These changes created bigger fixed prizes for all prize tiers. A maximum rollover limit was also implemented, setting a maximum of five rollovers before a “Must Be Won” draw takes place. If this happens, the funds will filter down into the rest of the prize tiers if there’s no ‘Match 6’ winner/s.


The third-highest US Powerball jackpot took place on March 27, 2019, when the jackpot rolled over to an amazing $768.4 million. A single ticket purchased in Wisconsin took home the top jackpot prize.

Computers, smartphones, and the Internet have brought about major changes in world communications and it is because of this globalization that companies are able to offer their customers better products at the touch of a button.

We can’t wait to see what big changes 2020 brings along in the word of the lottery games.



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