The History of Lotteries May Surprise You
Would it surprise you to know that lotteries played a major part in the funding and founding of the first colonies in what is now the United States? King James I granted the Virginia Company of London the use of lotteries to finance not only Jamestown (the original colony of America), but also the crossing of the Mayflower in 1620. Lotteries have been a popular type of gambling for centuries, much as we use municipal bonds today, most often run by governments and cities, and they can be traced back to the Chinese Han Dynasty from 205 to 187 B.C.
In the early days of America, records show that over 200 lotteries were permitted between 1744 and the American Revolution, and these lottery games played a vital role in the funding of roads, libraries, churches, colleges, bridges, and other ltobet public works. Some of the first esteemed universities, such as Princeton, Columbia University, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, got their original funding from lotteries. And like future “war bonds”, lotteries also played a part in supporting the war efforts during the French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution. Rare lottery tickets with George Washington’s signature can still be found, and numerous founding fathers of our country participated and sponsored them, encouraging the general public to participate. However, gambling took on an air of immorality in the later part of the nineteenth century, as moral reforms (such as temperance, labor reform, women’s rights and the abolition of slavery) gained strength and religious groups began to demand the forbiddance of any form of gambling, which like alcohol, only drove it underground as card and dice games became the secretive games of choice. Once WWII ended, the State of Nevada legalized gambling in Las Vegas (with a little help from organized crime), and the rest, as they say, is history.
In Western Europe, lottery’s history dates back to the 1400s as France gave birth to their popularity. This initiative was followed by King Francis I of France who allowed lotteries to operate from 1520. Seeing its success in 1567, England’s Queen Elizabeth the First established what is believed to be the first British state lottery, with the prize being hard cash along with some tangible goods, and thus began the success and use of lotteries in England and the Colonies.