The brief, and rather exciting history of the lottery games

The history of lottery roots back to the ancient times - it was played as early as in the antiquity, and the point of the game was sometimes to benefit the whole community by gathering funds for renovations and planned developments.


The main concept of the lottery has always been a chance of winning huge sums or valuable properties and objects without risking too much money, but the chance of winning has always been low enough to keep the whole game sustainable, and preferably, even quite profitable. The name itself probably comes from the Dutch word 'lot' or the Italian 'lotto', which both mean fortune/fate. This may show us something about what the players expect from the lottery game: many of them may think of it as a way their fate can somehow gift them with the incredible luck that's needed in order to win the prize.

Euro banknotes - EuroJackpot

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The earliest evidences of games that resemble the modern lottery come from the ancient China and Rome.

In China, a game that was somewhat like the lottery was quite popular during the Han dynasty. They called it the “white pigeon game”, because the winners got the joyful message with the help of pigeons. The profits of this game were partly used for the development of the Great Wall of China.

In the ancient Rome, a game called apophoreta started to gain popularity among the rich people, who could win valuable objects on this lottery-like game. “Strangely” enough, some of the best prizes were somehow won by the most influential and the richest people on these social events. It was then Augustus who saw the potential use of the lottery game when there was great need to make developments in Rome. For him, it was not only a way to get money for the renovation, but also a way to guarantee his own popularity, as people just loved the lottery, which offered them some chance to win lands, servants and valuable objects.


Some 200 years later, a young emperor called Elagabalus got a really strange idea - the twist he made was to introduce cruel prizes such as dead animals, bees, wasps and even death penalties. Of course, these prizes were not really appealing, but the highly unpopular emperor had a solution for this inconvenience as well - he started forcing people to take part in his dark and crazy lottery. He was later assassinated, anyway.

The lottery then showed up in the 15. century Europe once again, but then it really started to show similarities of today's games. In Burgundy and the County of Flanders, lottery was organized in order to help the poor and to gain some funds for military purposes.

The first modern European lottery in which money could be won was organized in 1476, and it soon became popular, as people could spend their money on whatever they wanted to, while objects, even though usually were of high value, were sometimes useless for the folks who won them.


The direct predecessor of the modern lotteries were the elections in Genoa. In Genoa, people chose 5 new members of the senate, as in each year, five members left, and they had to be replaced by new candidates. There were 120 or 90 candidates from whom they selected the new members with a draw, and this event was popular enough to make people bet on the winners. Even today, some of the most popular lotteries maintain the 90/5 or 120/5 game order, meaning that people have to take five tips from the 90 or 120 numbers.

Lotteries remain popular in the 21. century, and today, there are several smaller and bigger games in most of the nations on the Earth. Some of the most popular lotteries are the OZ Lottery, the Brasilian Mega-Sena, and the EuroJackpot.

Anita Diós