The History of Lottery


Lottery is a popular form of gambling in which people buy tickets for the chance to win a prize, often money. States promote lotteries as a way to raise revenue, and people spend billions of dollars each year on them. Yet critics point to a number of problems, including that the lottery promotes addictive gambling behavior and is a significant regressive tax on lower-income people.

The History of Lottery

The origins of the lottery can be traced back to a number of ancient practices, from keno slips found in China in the 2nd millennium BC to modern-day raffles and scratch-off games. In the US, public lotteries date to the 17th century, when the Continental Congress used them to raise funds for the Revolutionary War. By the mid-18th century, private lotteries were common in American colonies, raising money for everything from building churches to paving streets. George Washington even sponsored a lottery to fund a road across the Blue Ridge Mountains.

While the odds of winning a lottery are long, many players have a lingering belief that they will be the one to break through. They may develop a quote-unquote system about lucky numbers or preferentially shop at certain convenience stores, but in general they know that the odds are against them.

State officials usually do little to change this mindset when they adopt a lottery, as they tend to make decisions piecemeal and incrementally, with very little overall overview or perspective. The result is that the public’s interest in and demand for a more coherent lottery policy is rarely taken into account.