How Many People Play the Lottery?



The history of lotteries stretches back to ancient times, with the Old Testament commanding Moses to take a census of all the people living in Israel and divide the land by lot. This practice was popular in Europe, and the first lottery in the United States was created in 1612 when King James I of England introduced a lottery to raise money for the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. Other countries adapted lotteries and used them to fund public works projects, towns, and wars.

The rules of lotteries determine the amount of money that can be spent on prizes and frequency of drawings. Most lotteries have a hierarchy of sales agents who collect tickets from customers, pass money up the chain and bank it. Many national lotteries now sell fractions of tickets, each costing slightly more than a percentage of the full price of the ticket. Customers may place small stakes on each fraction, allowing them to win big.

The lottery was first implemented in Colorado in 1890. Later, states like Florida and Idaho began operating their own lottery. States like South Dakota, Kentucky, and Tennessee also implemented lottery systems. In South Carolina, for example, lottery sales increased by 61 percent between 1998 and 2003. In contrast, lottery sales in Indiana and Georgia have experienced a similar growth rate. In general, the lottery is a highly popular pastime. But how many people participate?