The US has a long history of lotteries. The first lottery was established in Puerto Rico during the colonial era, and the state of New Hampshire introduced it in 1934. Today, forty-five states and Washington D.C. operate lotteries, and in 2021 the Virgin Islands will join the ranks. Lottery games vary in terms of style and content, from drawing games to instant-win games. Depending on the state, a lottery may be available for adults, children, or both.
In the 17th century, lottery games were common in the Low Countries. Initially, the game served to raise funds for public purposes, such as repairing the city walls, helping the poor, and ensuring that the wealthy could live a comfortable life. The lottery was an immensely popular and effective way to raise money. The first recorded lotteries in Europe were distributed during Saturnalian celebrations. The oldest known lottery is that of the Roman Emperor Augustus. This was a way to fund repairs to the City of Rome, and winners received articles of unequal value.
Several colonial lotteries were organized to help pay for public projects. Some, like Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia Lottery, gave away prizes in the form of “Pieces of eight”. George Washington’s Mountain Road Lottery was unsuccessful, but his signed tickets were sold for $15,000 in 2007. In 1769, he was the manager of Col. Bernard Moore’s “Slave Lottery.” This lottery offered prizes such as land and slaves.