For centuries, people around the world have been playing the national lottery. Today, there are thousands of opportunities for millions of players worldwide to take part in one of the biggest industries globally, but it hasn’t always been this way. Today’s winners stand on the back of millions of people who have gone before them, and transformed this game of chance into what it is now.
The first recordings of a lottery date back to the Chinese Han Dynasty between 205 and 187 BC, where the money was used to help build the Great Wall of China. There is a reference to the drawing of lots in the Chinese “Book of Songs” which indicates that games of luck began with the earliest developments of mankind. Move ahead a little in time, and evidence shows that Roman Empire used the lottery as a source of amusement at dinner parties. Some records suggest that lottery tickets were put up for sale during the reign of Augustus Caesar, who used all money generated from those sales to rebuild the city of Rome. Every citizen who purchased a ticket was guaranteed to win something – a very different scenario to today!
More is known about the lottery and its development from the 15th century onwards. Many towns used lotteries to generate funds that would fortify their towns and villages, and give aid to the poorest living amongst them. Lotteries were extremely popular and were seen as a form of taxation in which people would willingly participate as they knew they would win something in return. Across several towns, cities and countries, money generated from the lottery was used to better public services and facilities. The birth of our modern day lottery, however, happened in Genoa, where citizens would vote for council members twice a year, and would receive something if their council member’s name was picked. This was enjoyed so much by the public that they decided to switch to using numbers instead of names, and played this “guessing game” on a more regular basis and our national lotteries were officially born.
In the 1700s, lotteries in the United States were primarily used to finance ventures privately and publicly, including the building of churches and national roads. In 1740, money generated from lotteries were used to finance two of the most prestigious universities, namely the University of Princeton and the University of Columbia. During the Revolutionary War, funds from lotteries supported the Colonial Army, following which several states in the United States of America had to resort to using lotteries as their primary source of finance for public welfare and development. In the 1800s, the “game of numbers” became so popular that even the poorest of the poor were participating in the hope that they would receive even a small reward to offer some relief.
Through time, the popularity of this enticing game of chance has grown enormously. What started out as a picking of lots has transformed into a multi-billion-dollar game of numbers and chance, drawing interest from citizens around the world. While the winnings are bigger and the odds are greater, the satisfaction of winning has never changed, and will likely remain for many centuries to come. Today’s winners stand on the back of those gone before us who laid the perfect foundation for this unpredictable yet exhilarating game of chance.
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