Would you believe that England’s first recorded lottery started on January 11th, 1569, 450 years ago.
Originally lotteries started in China around 200 BC, to fund major projects, such as building the Great Wall of China.
However, to Romans lotteries were a game played at dinner parties. Well, that was until Augustus Caesar, the Roman Emperor, needed money to repair Rome, suddenly, realised that there was easy way to raise money!
By the middle ages, towns such as Ghent, Utrecht, and Bruges, in the Low Countries, used lotteries to pay for fortifications, buildings and help the poor. By the 17th century most Netherlands towns were funding themselves by lottery, as they were popular but the real reason was that it was a painless way to tax people!
It didn’t always work, in the 1539 King Francis I of France thought it was a super way to raise money and solve his country’s financial problems. However, it was a fiasco, the tickets cost too much and those who could pay, opposed it, which meant that for the next two centuries lotteries in France were forbidden, but occasionally tolerated!
To England, January 11th, 1569 was the date that our government decided to sell the rights to trade lottery tickets to brokers, they in turn hired agents to actually sell them. These brokers were the first financial traders who eventually evolved into the modern day stockbrokers. Why, because people could not afford a lottery ticket, they were too expensive, so the brokers sold a share in the ticket. Think of what it has led to today, it leads to a question are shares still a lottery?
The English Lottery ran for over 250 years, until the government, under constant pressure from the opposition in parliament, declared a final lottery in 1826.
However, there is a difference between today’s National Lottery and other lotteries and that is that it isn’t used to fund our government, it goes to charities. Well it does at the moment!
Isn’t History fun!