England’s first State Lottery

January 11th Celebrates England’s first State Lottery

Today on Days to Remember we celebrate how in 1567 England’s first state lottery was held.

Have you bought a lottery ticket and thought to yourself, “Who invented this whole thing?”

English novelist and dramatist Henry Fielding in his 1732 play The Lottery, and truthfully, he was not far off.

The lottery as a method of raising funds for the government has existed since at least the Roman Empire and possibly before.

Ancient China had a form of lottery (Keno) that was used to finance the Great Wall of China’s construction, and the Bible even mentions a form of lottery system used by Moses in Numbers 26.

The first recorded lottery (1446) was held by the widow of Flemish painter Jan van Eyck to help her dispose of her husband’s paintings.

Lotteries began to gain traction in medieval Europe where they were oftentimes used to raise funds for public welfare projects.

It was not until January 11th 1567 that England held its first state lottery. Queen Elizabeth I set about to raise funds for several public works projects, chief among them the rebuilding of harbors, undertaken in order to expand Britain’s world trade influence.

Given the choice between levying a new tax and holding the first state lottery, the Queen elected to hold a lottery instead.

When was the first lottery ticket sold?

The first recorded of lottery ticket being sold was during the Chinese’s dynasty. A keno slips were given out between 205 and 187 BC. These lotteries are believed to have helped to finance major government projects like the Great Wall of China.

Today’s lottery ticket is more about gambling with your emotions, sprinkled with wishful thinking that out of the hundreds of thousands of people that are picked out by random will win something?

When did the lottery idea come to the United States?

The numbers game operated out of “Policy shops”, where bettors choosing numbers, were in the U.S. prior to 1861.

However in 1875, a report of a select committee of the New York State Assembly stated that “the lowest, meanest, worst form … [that] gambling takes in the city of New York, is what is known as policy playing”.

The game was also popular in Italian neighborhoods during that time when the immigrants brought over with them known as the Italian lottery, and it was known in Cuban communities as bolita meaning little ball.

By the early 20th century, the game was associated with poor communities, and could be played for as little as $0.01. One of the game’s attractions to low income and working class bettors was the ability to bet small amounts of money.

Also, unlike state lotteries, bookies could extend credit to the bettor. In addition, policy winners could avoid paying income tax.

Beware of the sure win, because Lotteries, like any form of gambling, are susceptible to fraud, despite the high degree of scrutiny claimed by the organizers. Numerous lottery scams exist.

As we celebrate the first state lottery being held in England today, let’s remember with money you can buy all the friends you want, but they are NEVER worth the price of a true friendship!

Written & Designed by JD Mitchell


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