Lotteries: History, How to Play & more


The word “lottery” is from the Italian “lotto” meaning fate or destiny. Since ancient days, governments and states have offered their citizens the chance of playing one form of lottery or another.

Today, the lottery system is one of most popular forms of gambling and entertainment in the world, with literally billions of people enjoying the thrill of taking part in a lottery and standing in line to win prizes ranging from a few dollars to mega-million jackpots.


It is not known which civilization was the first to discover the lottery system, however archaeological findings and ancient texts point to the Middle East and China as possible locations. Moses awarded tracts of land west of the Jordan River using a lottery, while ancient Keno slips were discovered in excavations relating the Han Dynasty of around 200 BC. It is known for sure that a form of lottery was used to fund part of the building of the Great Wall of China.

At the turn of the 15th century, Portugal created a national lottery to help the country’s poor and to generate more money into its coffers. Lottery systems thrived across Europe between the 15th and 17th centuries, springing up in several countries. The Netherlands created one of the world’s longest running lotteries in 1727 and the Queen of Portugal, D. Maria Pia, ordered the founding of a new national lottery in 1783 – known as the Lotaria Nacional Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa.

Lotteries in North America

It is a known fact that lotteries were used to create Harvard University, as well as to create the Virginia Company that funded the first English settlement in North America at the beginning of the 17th century. However, following widespread abuse and corruption of the system, lotteries were soon outlawed in most American states, including Canada, by 1878. American citizens needed to make do with lottery systems from across the ocean, such as the Irish Sweepstakes and the Australian Queensland State Lottery.

By the 1970's, however, state lotteries were being introduced to generate income for local governments. Most states rewrote or amended their Constitutions in order to provide the framework for state lotteries. The 1974 State of Massachusetts lottery was the first system to offer instant money to the winners and proved to be hugely popular.

The Move Away from Passive Gaming

The 1980's saw a strong move away from passive games and more of an interest in instant games. By this time, more than 16 American states were selling instant games and the revenue generated by this type of gaming was over $1-billion in the United States. Countries started to experiment with different marketing techniques and increased their payouts. When tickets started being distributed to retailers in the mid 1980's, the sale of lottery tickets tripled. At around the same time, the Australian lottery system revolutionized the system with the creation of multi-price point strategy and major lottery distributors all over the world soon adopted the idea.

Where Does the Money Go?


Lotteries today are used to generate money for many different uses. One of the main income sources for national education comes from the money made from the lottery and many countries and states depend largely on this money each year. It is thought that if people know that the money that they spend on a lottery ticket is generated back into the community, they will tend to spend more freely on this form of gambling. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they stand to win a lot of money in the process!

Some of the most popular state lotteries in the United States today include Powerball, Mega Millions, Win for Life and the Tri State Lottery.

The Powerball as an Example of How the Lottery Works

The United States Powerball (not to be confused with the Australian lottery of the same name) is run by the Multi State Lottery Association and brings together 29 states where Powerball is available to their citizens.

Essentially, players need to pick out five numbers of white balls from the range of one to fifty five and an additional one red ball, known as the Powerball. For every five numbers picked, the player pays $1. A further $1 buys the player a chance to take part in Power Play – a random multiplier to most of the prizes at stake.

The draw for Powerball is held every Wednesday and Saturday, with players holding their breath to see whether they are the lucky winners of the jackpot. The chances of somebody actually guessing all five numbers plus the Powerball has been estimated to be about 1: 146,107,962, yet this does not deter millions from playing the lottery. People are continuously buoyed by stories of lucky players who were successful in winning enormous amounts.

In 2005, a family purchased $40 worth of Powerball lottery tickets and won the incredible sum of $340-million. In February, 2006, eight people went from being simple meat plant pack workers to the proud winners of a staggering $365-million on a single ticket. These are just some of the rags to riches examples that keep players coming back to the Powerball for more.

The Chances of Winning the Lottery

If we look at the dry facts, we can see that the chances of actually winning the jackpot are extremely low, to the point of nearly impossible. This has led to the lottery being called a variety of names, including “tax on stupidity” and “voluntary tax”. The chances of winning the lottery obviously depend on a number of factors, including the total numbers drawn, the number of participants and the particular order of numbers. While the lottery may be a bad deal, financially, it does not stop millions of people from trying their luck every day around the world, fueled by their desire to become instant millionaires, despite the odds.

Lotteries on the Internet

With the advent of the internet, lotteries have become more accessible to the general public. There is no longer a need for people to make their way to a lottery retailer. Instead, they can simply access one of a multitude of lottery sites on the internet, choose their favorite game and the amount they wish to spend and stand in line to win a wide range of prizes – both cash and others.

It is sometimes possible for lottery players to register with a lottery site and then play for free simply for viewing the ads. This is a great way to enjoy the fun of lottery without spending a fortune, and still win some excellent prizes.

Online lottery playing has become one of the hottest forms of gambling in the world and is an incredible revenue generator for private companies and state-owned entities.

How Are Lottery Prizes Paid Out?

Not all countries and geographical regions pay out the lottery in the same way. There are some countries such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom that are kinder to their winners and quite happily pay out one lump sum of winnings without any taxes imposed on the amount. Other countries, however, such as the United States will tax all the winners quite heavily – sometimes as much as 40% of the winnings.

In general, players in the United States can pick between two options – to get paid out a lump sum or to be paid out over several years (ranging from 10 to 40 years). If players choose the lump sum option, they might very well find themselves with less than half the amount of the advertised winnings. Yet many winners still take this path because they feel that if they invest their winnings in other portfolios of their own choice, they stand to earn more than if they get paid out over several years.

Winners of online lotteries can sometimes find themselves with small amounts paid out over a few years and a big amount in the final year.


From ancient forms of lottery in Biblical times, the lottery system has evolved into a fast-paced, technologically advanced, multi billion dollar industry that has people waiting with baited breath each week to see whether their dreams have come true and allowing them to fantasize over huge winnings. The lottery can easily be called the most popular form of gambling entertainment in the world, attracting people from all walks of life, from every civilization and race in the world.

Online lottery systems have brought the fun directly into the homes of millions of players, affording them the opportunity to make quick and instant purchases and even winning on the spot cash in the space of a few moments.

No other system in the world generates so much extra revenue for governments to pour back into the community, creating educational opportunities, help for the underprivileged and other social benefits. The lottery is certainly a system by the people, for the people and continues to grow in popularity with each passing year.

Posted by CCJ Team