The Lottery in America Has a Long, Tumultuous History

( – Millions of people play the lottery every week, hoping to strike it big. There are several different programs, including Mega Millions and Powerball, which are available in most states. Then, there are the state lotteries. All of these programs give people a variety of ways to try to win money by picking the right numbers.

Sometimes, when there are no winners, the jackpot increases to astronomical amounts, such as the recent $1.58 billion Powerball, which was won by one individual in Florida. But, as much fun as it can be for people to play in the hopes of winning, the lottery has a long, tumultuous history.

Florida Winner Strikes it Big

On Tuesday, August 8, the Mega Millions jackpot sat at an astonishing $1.58 billion, the highest it’s ever reached. The game involves picking six total numbers, five numbers ranging from 1 to 70, then the Mega ball, which ranges from 1 to 25. The lucky person to pick all six accurately wins the jackpot.

This time, the win went to a lucky player who purchased the ticket in Neptune Beach, Florida. If they take the cash option, will get an estimated payout of $783.3 million. The name of the winner has not been publicly released.

This is the second billion-dollar prize award this year. In July, a $1.08 billion winning Powerball ticket was sold in California, with a cash payout value fo $558.1 million.

Lottery Dates Back to 1600s

The history of the lottery dates back to the settlers of the United States. Back in 1612, King James I authorized the Virginia Company of London to carry out a lottery. The purpose was to finance the Jamestown colony ships. That was just the beginning. From there, gambling grew. By 1670, it had become a “well-established feature […] of New England life.”

Gambling — and lotteries especially — were big among the Founding Fathers of the country, as well. They regularly used them to fund their needs, one of which was a militia to help fight off the French. In the 1800s, corruption and a general distaste for gambling led to a significant decrease in the gambling practice. Lotteries seemingly went the way of prohibition, though, like liquor sales, it had a seedy underbelly. By 1894, they were no longer legal.

The lottery as we know it today reappeared in the 1960s, beginning in New Hampshire, and it soon spread to the neighboring states. In the 1980s, it was a common practice again. Today, all but 5 states have a lottery system and several national programs, like the Mega Millions and Powerball, raise the stakes.

Copyright 2023,