Lottery around the world
In basic form a lottery is a popular form of gambling in which players draw lots from a pool to win a prize, in most cases, the prize being money. Lotteries, in one form or another, have been around as long as people have lived in society. The word lottery probably derives from the Italian word 'lotto' which means fate or destiny. However, in more recent history, lottery games have grown more complex and involved.
It is said in the Bible that Moses used a lottery to distribute lands around the river Jordan. The popular game of Keno (Chinese Lottery) originated in ancient China around 3,000 years ago, originally set up by the government to raise funds for the construction of the Great Wall.
Julius Caesar often used lotteries to raise funds for the building of his vast empire. One of the oldest lotteries still in operation today was begun in Portugal in 1783. In 1567 Queen Elizabeth I instituted the first English state Lottery. All of these early lotteries had similar purposes of raising funds for the government. Often governments would institute them in times of need or war. Much of the money used to build the universities Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia was raised by lotteries. Today official lotteries are set up to give money back to the public and must somehow benefit the people.
Unfortunately, like many forms of gambling, lotteries are very prone to corruption. In early America many lotteries were started up and many of them were essentially unregulated. Unlike many lotteries in the Old World, these lotteries were run by private consortiums. The lack of state control led to widespread corruption and greed, with lottery managers often rigging the outcomes. The Louisiana Lottery Company was notable for this as it pioneered the use of mail for entries which legally sidestepped the prohibition against lotteries in other states. This was the first instance of a multi-state lottery. The Louisiana lottery became infamous for it’s corruption with the bribes and payoffs permeating up to the highest political leaders. As a result of this lotteries were banned by the Federal Government in 1894.
Of course this only meant that the lottery went underground and provided a great revenue stream for criminal syndicates who had the resources to run large lottery pools. A common form of these illegal lotteries was the 'numbers' games which proliferated throughout the urban areas of East Coast in America. Most 'numbers' games involved a combination of three digits which gave far greater odds of winning.
Many Americans, having no legal outlet in their country, played foreign lotteries. Perhaps, the largest was the Irish Sweepstakes, which opened up to American and Canadian bettors in 1930.
In 1964 New Hampshire broke the Federal ban and started up a state run lottery. This was the beginning of the modern era for American lotteries and soon almost every state followed suit. Massachusetts introduced the first scratch ticket in 1974. In 1985 multi-state lotteries were legalized with the Tri-State Lotto linking up the state lotteries of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The Virginia lottery also became quite popuplar.
Today more than a 100 foreign lotteries are running. Countries such as France, England and Mexico have national lotteries. Most important for this growth has been the effective enforcement of regulations. The World Lottery Organization was formed in 1999 and has an international membership of 74 countries that oversee 136 different lotteries. These lotteries collectively bring in more than $120 billion in yearly revenue. In order to join the Organization a lottery must use the majority of its profits to benefit the public good and must conform to the WLA Code of Conduct.
Given this recent effective framework for the overseeing of lotteries, the future is bright for state run lotteries. The government always needs more money and lotteries are a great alternative to raising taxes.