The first recorded lotteries with money prizes were held in the Low Countries during the fifteenth century. Towns held public lotteries to raise money for public projects such as fortification and poor relief. There is a possibility that some of the oldest documented lotteries date back even further, such as the record of 9 May 1445 in L’Ecluse, which mentions a lottery of four hundred and thirty-four tickets for seventeen hundred and thirty-seven florins, equivalent to US$170,000 today.
In colonial America, lottery tickets were sold in order to build roads, colleges, and libraries. Princeton and Columbia University were both funded through lotteries in the 1740s, as was the University of Pennsylvania. During the French and Indian Wars, several colonies used lotteries to raise funds. In 1758, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts held a lottery to raise funds for a military expedition against Canada.
In the early twentieth century, negative attitudes about gambling changed. After the failure of Prohibition, gambling was legalized in the state of Nevada. More states began to legalize gambling for charitable purposes. Still, lotteries were not widely accepted, due to lingering fears of fraud. And while there were some initial misgivings about the lottery, it is now widely recognized that it is a legitimate source of funds for public projects.
Lottery has numerous benefits. It can help people win housing units, kindergarten placements, or large cash prizes. Even the National Basketball Association holds a lottery to determine who will get picked in the draft. The winning team gets to select the best college talent.