A Brief History of Lottery Tickets

Lottery tickets have a long and colorful history. The first lottery tickets known are keno slips from the Han Dynasty in China. During the Roman Empire lotteries were used for entertainment during lavish dinner parties. The earliest recorded public lottery was organized by the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus and the proceeds from the lottery were used for repairs in the city of Rome. One of the first European lotteries took place in the Dutch town of Sluis in the 14th century. This early lottery was the first public lottery to offer cash prizes and proved very popular. Lotteries spread across what is now known as the Netherlands and Belgium. Many of these early lotteries used the proceeds for charitable purposes. In the Netherlands lotteries were regarded as a painless kind of taxation.

Ticket based lo0tteries quickly spread to England Queen Elizabeth I chartered the first public lottery in 1566. Later the English government sold the right to sell lottery tickets to brokers who hired employees to sell the lottery tickets. Believe it or not these early lottery brokers were the forerunners of today’s stock brokers.

The history of the United States and lotteries are indelibly connected. The Virginia Company in London held private lotteries to fund the early settlement at Jamestown Virginia. In 1612 King James the First granted the Virginia Company the right to hold private lotteries. Later on lotteries played an important part in the development of Colonial America. Princeton and Columbia universities were financed by lotteries as was the University of Pennsylvania. During the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress established lotteries top fund the Continental Army. Later on the United States forgot its lottery heritage and banned lotteries and by 1900 lotteries had disappeared from the American scene.

The ban on lotteries spawned a new criminal enterprise known as the ‘numbers game.’ Most numbers games were very similar to current pick 3, pick 4 and pick 5 games offered by most state lotteries. In the 1960’s New Hampshire became the first state in modern times to sell lottery tickets. Since then 43 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have established lotteries. Computer technology made the purchase of lottery tickets easier and more accurate. Lottery retailers are able to offer ‘quick pick’ options where numbers are selected by a random number generator. The addition of mega jackpot multi state lotteries like Powerball and mega Millions set new records for lottery ticket sales.

What does the future hole for lottery tickets? Most industry experts say that online lottery ticket sales will be extremely popular among players and boost ticket sales. Some offshore lotteries have already made the move online with great success. In New Zealand players can even have winnings deposited into personal bank accounts electronically. The UK National Lottery sells tickets online and also sells tickets for a few European lotteries such as EuroMillions. In the not so distant future most lottery experts expect paper lottery tickets to be a thing of the past.

By Anthony Wayne
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