When it comes to the origins of the lottery, the true starting point is one open for debate. While the first ever appearance of the lottery was in ancient China, there were various versions of the game found in Europe too, where the first recognisable versions of Lottery were seen in Holland and Belgium.
But first, back to China. The Han dynasty that took place between 205 and 187 BC was rumoured to have a form of lottery that ultimately funded the Great Wall of China. However, the only source of this came from a collection of Chinese poems – the earliest collection, to be exact – that was known as the Book of Songs.
The game then spread to Europe, though it’s unknown the exact date on which this happened. Rome was in need of repairs, and what better way to drum up the funds for exactly that than by a lottery? A Roman emperor, Ceasar Augustus, was the known source from which the game was introduced, and he even went about organising smaller lottery draws for dinner party guests.
However, it wasn’t until the 15th century that we really saw Lottery as we know it start to come to fruition. Paper tickets were issued in Brussels, Belgium to give people the chance to win a space in the daily markets, and in Sluis in Holland, over 4,300 tickets were sold in order to raise money to build up town infrastructure and to help those in need. The prize for this lottery was 1,737 florins!
Genoa, Italy, was the next to evolve the game of lottery, offering people the opportunity to bet on names of council members and which five would be drawn from a pool of around ninety. These draws were so popular, in fact, that they went on to change these names to numbers and make it more than a bi-annual event – and the rest, as they say, is history.