Top 7 Lottery Facts of the Past 4000 Years

Nowadays, when playing a modern lottery like US Powerball we hardly ever stop to think about how long lotteries have been around and where they came from. You might be surprised to find out the story of how lotteries came to be in various parts of the world, in what ways they were used, and some of the most fascinating lottery facts of the past 4000 years.

Ancient Lottery Ticket Facts

When you buy lottery tickets online from your computer or phone it may feel like you're taking part in something completely modern, but many ways you're actually doing exactly what ancient humans have been doing all the way back to the second millennium BCE.

1. Lotteries date back to Ancient China and Rome

Not only did lotteries exist in the ancient Chinese and Roman empires, many believe that they played important roles in constructing and maintaining the Great Wall of China and the City of Rome!

lottery ticket facts

Photo credit: Hung Chung Chih, Shutterstock.

The earliest remaining signs of ancient lotteries are slips of paper from around 200 BCE that the Chinese Han Dynasty may have used to help fund the building of the first sections of the Great Wall. However, it is believed that lotteries had already existed in China for at least a thousand years, as the Chinese Book of Songs describes a luck-based game involving the "drawing of wood."

As for lottery ticket facts, the first lottery tickets came into use right around 1 CE during the Roman Empire, as Emperor Augustus organised the sale of tickets to pay for city repairs.

lottery facts

Photo credit: S. Borisov, Shutterstock.

2000 years later, lotteries are still being used by governments around the world to raise funds for public programs and charities.

2. Today's lotteries come from 15th century Netherlands and Belgium

Lotteries offering tickets in exchange for cash prizes were first recorded in 15th century Netherlands and Belgium. The first public lottery we know about was held in 1445 in a Dutch town that offered a prize of 1,737 florins, or almost €200,000 today. That lottery sold over 4,300 tickets and the profits were used to invest in the town's infrastructure, as well as to help the poor. Because of this long lottery tradition, the Netherlands national lottery remains the world's longest-running lottery today.

3. "Lottery" is an Italian-Dutch mashup

Since modern-day lotteries in which tickets are sold for a potential crash prize were first fully realised in the Netherlands and Belgium, it's no big surprise that the English word "lottery" originates from a Dutch word, "lot." "Lot" also has a very fitting meaning: fate.

"Lot" then became "lotto" when the Italian city of Milan held its first post-Roman Empire lottery in 1449.

Lotto Facts Throughout History

As the years went by, lotteries became more and more widespread and popular as a fun way of involving the public in the raising of public funds. That much most people would probably have assumed on their own, but some lotto facts you may not have ever heard of are the role lotteries played in the Vatican and the first years of the United State of America.

4. Even Vatican City has lotteries!

At first, the papacy was against the very idea of lotteries in Rome. Popes Innocent XI and XII threatened excommunication against Catholics that participated in the Italian lotteries, but the lotteries remained as popular as ever with the public.

In 1732, the Holy See led by Pope Innocent XIII finally permitted the establishment of an official Roman lottery. Centuries later, the Vatican has more than just warmed up to lotteries.

Pope Francis started holding lotteries for charitable causes in 2015, but purchasing tickets required going in person to a Vatican pharmacy, post office, or supermarket.

5. The USA was funded by lotteries

Did you know that the American founding fathers were also founding fans of the lottery?

lotto facts

Photo credit: Jeffrey M. Frank, Shutterstock.

Benjamin Franklin established a lottery to pay for a cannon in Philadelphia, while George Washington set up many lotteries (with little success, however.) Thomas Jefferson held a private lottery to pay off debts, and in 1776 the Centinental Congress established lotteries in order to fund the Colonial Army.

Modern Day Lottery Trivia

Even now, lotteries continue to make history by breaking all kinds of records with every passing year.

From the amounts of the biggest jackpots of all time to the most and least common winning numbers, the wide world of lottery trivia is seemingly endless and constantly growing.

6. Misplacing a lotto ticket cost someone £64 million!

Can you imagine anything worse than buying a jackpot winning lottery ticket - and then losing it? This truly is every lottery player's worst nightmare.

Whether this unlucky person lost their ticket or just forgot to check the winning numbers, the record for highest value unclaimed lotto ticket is £64 million!

That lottery ticket was for a 2012 EuroMillions draw , but the problem is actually much more widespread than one unclaimed jackpot prize. In fact, every year millions in lottery prizes go unclaimed. That's what makes playing the lottery online, where you don't have to keep track of little slips of paper and can be notified directly when you win, one of the best ideas in the history of the lottery!

If this tale of the missing £64 million prize interested you, we've covered five more of the biggest unclaimed lottery jackpots of all time.

7. Turns out you're wrong about lottery winners

For our final lottery fact, we're busting a lottery myth.

lottery trivia

Like a lot of people, you might think that the first thing every big lottery winner does is quit their job.

Surprisingly, however, a Swedish study found that contrary to public belief, a whopping 62% of Swedish lottery winners chose to keep working regularly, while only 12% stopped working entirely.

This backed up a National Opinion Research Center poll that showed 70% of adults would still work even if they didn't need the money.

Make lottery history with theLotter

Whether you fall into the 70% that would continue working or the 30% that would immediately retire to a private island, the only way you'll get to make that choice is if you get lucky when youbuy lottery tickets online!

With theLotter, you can easily take part in one of humanity's oldest traditions and participate in the continuing journey of the lottery.