In ancient times, lotteries were a popular means to divide property. Moses is quoted in the Old Testament telling the people of Israel to take a census and divide their land among them by lot. Later, the Roman emperors used lotteries to distribute property and slaves. The word apophoreta, which means “that which is carried home,” describes this ancient form of entertainment. It is possible that this form of lottery was created as a way to reward people for their services, but its use for social welfare is a recent phenomenon.
Some of the best known lottery games are those that involve huge prizes. These may include housing units, kindergarten placements, or large cash prizes. In addition, the National Basketball Association (NBA) holds a lottery to decide the draft picks of its fourteen worst teams. The winning team is able to select the top college talent in the country. These kinds of lotteries have widespread appeal as a means of raising funds. In addition, they are easy to run and play, making them very popular among the general public.
The first recorded lotteries offered money prizes. The first recorded lotteries were in Low Countries, where towns held public lotteries in order to fund their fortifications. By the 16th century, the lottery was popular enough to help the poor. A record from the L’Ecluse town in France from 9 May 1445 mentions a lottery that involved 4,304 tickets. Today, this prize would be equivalent to US$170,000!