Today, there are many things you can do when you want to try your luck. For example, you can start playing online slots or other casino games within minutes, wherever you are in the world. But there was also a time when things were not that easy, and once the only option for players was state-run lotteries. They may be the oldest form of legal gambling and have come a long way since their inception. In this guide, we will take a brief look at their history and explain how the modern lottery works.
The Lotteries Built the Great Wall of China
Most historians believe the first lotteries were held between 205 – 187 BC and during the Chinese Han Dynasty. There are multiple historical records that show that lotteries were used to support the construction of the Great Wall of China.
In Europe, we see lotteries for the first time around the 15th century: small cities in that period obtained the necessary resources to fortify their defenses by organizing lotteries. According to historical records, King Francis I of France officially authorized lotteries in 1539, and other European kings followed his example.
Until the end of World War II, we see that lotteries were organized almost all over the world for a single purpose: to finance military power. Kings and rulers realized that it was very difficult to raise money from the public for their armies, but when they presented this in the form of a lottery, it became very easy: even the US Revolutionary War was financed that way. Today, this situation still continues, but the lottery income is now used not only for the army but also for social responsibility projects.
Until the second half of the 20th century, lotteries were all the same: you bought tickets with pre-printed numbers (or symbols) for money. Then you would wait for the date of the draw and hope that the numbers on your ticket would come out. Sometimes there could be months between the date the tickets started to sell and the date of the draw. This situation ended with the emergence of a game of chance called “lotto,” and people started to choose their own numbers freely.
Modern Lotteries Started in the Second Half of the 20th Century
You probably already know the game called Lotto because it is played as “bingo” in England and “keno” in America. Lotto, which is actually the name of the original and simplest version of this game, has been known as a children’s game since 1778. When this game was adapted to lotteries, it became popular beyond predictions, as it gave participants the chance to choose their own numbers above all else. Now, instead of tickets with preprinted numbers, you could buy a ticket with numbers between 1 and 49 and freely select the 6 numbers you want. Today it seems like a very simple thing, but when it first appeared, it caught people’s attention.
This concept is still used in all modern lotteries. The numbers on the ticket or the numbers that the participant can choose may increase or decrease, but in any case, you determine which numbers you will try your luck with. For example:
- In Mega Millions in the United States, you are allowed to choose 5 numbers from 1 to 75 and 1 number from 1 to 15.
- In Super Enalotto in Italy, you are allowed to choose 6 numbers from 1 to 90.
- In EuroMillions in the UK, you are allowed to choose 5 numbers from 1 to 50.
Compared to old lotteries, you no longer have to wait for months: almost all modern lotteries are held weekly – you may have to wait a month at the most. You can view the lottery results online and even buy some lottery tickets online. But be very careful with this: you are almost always only allowed to buy tickets online for the lottery in your country of residence. So, if you live in France, for example, it will not be possible (except in exceptional circumstances) to buy a UK lottery ticket online. Because, interestingly, the legal regulations on lotteries are not within the scope of the EU, and it is clearly determined that each country will apply its own laws.
How Are the Winning Numbers Determined?
Those over the age of 40 remember the lottery draws that were broadcast live on TV. There were balls with numbers in a transparent sphere and they were chosen at random. Although this method is still used for some lotteries, almost all modern lottery draws are made instantly by the computer. In other words, the computer randomly selects 6 numbers between 1 and 80, for example, and the winning numbers are determined in this way.
An RNG software (and certificate) is used to confirm that this lottery is indeed random and fair. The winning numbers are published in real and online media, and the winners receive their prizes either from the place where they bought the ticket or from the headquarters of the agency that organized the lottery: it depends on the prize amount.
Have you ever wondered what your chances of winning are? This is not confidential information because all official lotteries include this data on their websites. For example, the probability of guessing all 5 numbers correctly in EuroMillions is 1 in 3,107,515. In a lottery with a total of 49 numbers where you can choose 6 numbers, the probability of guessing all numbers correctly is 1 in 13,983,816. There is a very serious difference: the more numbers you need to guess correctly, the less likely you are to win. In this context, we can say that the fewer numbers you have to guess, the higher your chances of winning.
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