The earliest recorded lotteries had money prizes on the tickets. These were held in Low Countries towns in order to raise money for fortifications and for poor people. Although the first known lotteries are not recorded until the 16th century, the first records do show that they existed. For instance, a record from the late 14th century from L’Ecluse refers to a lottery where 4,304 tickets were sold, each with a florin value of about US$170,000, and the first state lotteries were held in England in 1569.
Throughout history, people have drawn tickets for lottery games for many different purposes. In China, lottery slips dating to between 205 BC and 187 BC are thought to have helped fund major government projects. In addition, the Book of Songs refers to the game of chance as a “drawing of wood” or “drawing of lots.”
There are some problems with this logic, but in general the concept of lottery is simple. There are certain rules in place that help us understand the rationale behind lottery purchases. In general, the lottery’s rules prohibit “rigging” of results. While some lottery players may buy tickets in order to get the thrill of winning, the disutility of purchasing a ticket is not worth the potential gain. As long as the lottery officials follow these rules, there is no reason why a person should buy a ticket if they can achieve maximizing their expected utility.
While the modern lottery is a relatively recent development, the concept dates back to ancient times. In the Old Testament, Moses instructed his followers to gather censuses of all the people living in the land and divide the land by lot. Later, the Roman emperors used lotteries to distribute property and slaves. In 1832, the Boston Mercantile Journal reported that there were 420 lotteries in eight states. It is unclear if they were legal at that time, but lottery games were a popular form of entertainment in the early days.