Essentially, a lottery is a game of chance where a small amount is paid for the chance of winning a large sum of money. Typically, the game is run by a state or city government. Various towns and states hold public lotteries to raise funds for various public projects.
In America, several colonies used lotteries during the French and Indian Wars. Benjamin Franklin organized a lottery to raise money for cannons to defend Philadelphia. The Continental Congress used a lottery to raise money for the Colonial Army. In 1758, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts held a lottery for an expedition against Canada.
In the 1740s, Princeton and Columbia Universities were financed by lotteries. The Virginia Company of London supported settlement in America at Jamestown. Lotteries were also used to finance bridges, libraries, colleges, and canals.
The Chinese Book of Songs mentions a game of chance as “drawing of wood and lots”. In the Roman Empire, lotteries were used for the distribution of land and slaves.
Lotteries were a popular form of gambling in the Netherlands in the 17th century. The word lottery is derived from the Dutch noun “lot,” which means “fate.” Lotteries were also held in France.
The first known European lotteries were held during the Roman Empire. The town records of Ghent indicate that lotteries may have been held as early as the 15th century. However, the first recorded lotterie with money prizes was held in the Low Countries in the 15th century.