The History of the Lottery

The history of the lottery goes back many centuries. As early as the 15th century, many European nations began holding lotteries to help fund their infrastructure. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, lottery funding was tied to the United States for the first time when King James I (1566-1625) created a lottery to help finance the town of Jamestown, Virginia. Since then, the lottery has become a popular source of funds for private and public organizations, from wars to schools and colleges to public works projects.


The first known record of a lottery was made during the Chinese Han Dynasty in 205 BC. Although some historians believe that lottery money originated in the Middle Ages, the practice of using a random drawing to select winners dates back to the 16th century. In the American Art Journal, the game was first referred to as the “drawing of wood” or “drawing of lots”. This is where the concept of a lottery got its start.

In the United States, lottery fever spread through the southern and western regions of the country. In the 1980s, 17 states and the District of Columbia started their own lottery programs. By the 1990s, six more states had adopted lottery laws. In the 2000s, North Dakota, Tennessee, and South Carolina joined. As a result of these expansions, the number of states and countries with lotteries has increased exponentially. There are several theories for the success of the lottery.