History of Lotteries

Although the Louisiana Lottery Corporation has been around since 1991, one look at its history shows that it's really a new kid on the lottery block.

The Roots of Modern Lotteries
The roots of today's lotteries can be traced as far back as the Roman Empire, where emperors gave gifts to party guests through a type of lottery system. The first-recorded lotto game started in the Italian Republic of Genoa during the 16th century. Drawings were held yearly to choose five people out of 90 candidates to become members of the Senate. For the price of one pistole, citizens guessed which five names would be selected. The person with the exact five names received a jackpot prize. Later, the names were replaced by numbers, and lotto was born.

European & Early American Lotteries
Early lotteries provided players with an outlet for fun and entertainment, but they also provided a source of funds for different projects. In 15th-17th century Europe, money generated from lottery sales financed everything from construction and charities to funding for the North American colonies.

Americans got in on the lottery business, too. In fact, a lottery allowed the first American colonists in Jamestown to raise enough money to keep the colony going through the winters. After the Revolutionary War, lotteries became very popular because they provided a way for people to pay for the rebuilding of towns and cities as well as other projects without being taxed.

The United States started growing, and so did the lottery industry. During the late 1700's to mid 1800's, public and private lotteries came and went as the government was trying to crack down on fraud through licensing requirements. Many states outlawed lotteries because of mismanagement and illegal practices.

The First Lottery in Louisiana
In 1868, a group of entrepreneurs established a privately owned business called the Louisiana Lottery Company and sold tickets nationwide. With only about 7 percent of the company's revenue coming from within the state, the Louisiana Lottery Company quickly became one of the largest businesses in the United States. Drawings were held daily, monthly and semiannually. Tickets for daily games were sold in fractions, from one-quarter cent to 25 cents. The top prize was $4,275.25.

The owners of the company worked out an arrangement with Louisiana state government. In exchange for donating a comparatively small sum of $40,000 a year for 25 years to the Charity Hospital of New Orleans, the Company kept the rest of their revenues, tax-free.

Amid state and national charges of corruption, the Company shut down 22 years later. It then moved to Honduras after the federal government passed laws banning the sale of lottery tickets through the mail. By 1894, legal lotteries were no longer held in the U.S.

Rebirth of American Lotteries
The North American lottery industry came to life again in 1964 when New Hampshire began a sweepstakes lottery. Just six short years later, the face of lotteries changed as the New Jersey Lottery formed a retailer network and began using ticket-issuing machines to produce tickets. In the late 1970's, games that lottery players know and love appeared on the scene - instant tickets and on-line lotto (Massachusetts); and daily numbers games (New Jersey).