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Lotteries are now played in many parts of the world where millions of people try to catch their chance. Just like in other countries, lottery became very popular in the United States, including its largest city, New York. Now there’s even a lottery to win a green card to the US. But when and how did it all become popular? It’s worth looking into history.

Just like many other things, the concept of lottery was brought to America by the European settlers. The word “lottery” itself comes from “lot”, which means what it still means now. A parking lot, for example, that is a share in something big. New York became one of the first US states to adopt it. In 1746 it authorized its first public lottery to finance city fortification. In the early 19th century New York City Hall was built with contributions from lottery proceeds. Then in the 1830s religious activists condemned gambling, including lotteries which they thought were immoral and advocated for their ban. In effect between 1844 to 1859, ten US states banned lottery. But in the 1930s the US government decided to organize official lotteries. The first was established in Puerto Rico in 1934. 

In the continental US the state of New Hampshire became the first in 1964. In the 1970s lotteries gained more popularity in the US. By 1993, for example, only two states – Utah and Hawaii – did not have lotteries, but now every state has a state-sponsored lottery. When it comes to the US’ largest city, the New York Lottery was started in 1967. Since then all proceeds from it go to education. In the digital age New York lotto results are published regularly online. There’s also an official Google Play application for smartphones. So far over 34 billion dollars from New York lottery proceeds went into education. New York offers a variety of lottery-based games to choose from, such as Numbers, New York Pick 4, Take 5, Sweet Million, Pick 10, Cash4Life or Mega Millions. 

US states now enact their own legislation on lotteries. Each state has its own laws on exemptions, such as lotteries by charitable, non-profit and church organizations. A federal statute defines lottery as any arrangement whereby three or more persons (the “participants”) advance money or credit to another in exchange for the possibility or expectation that one or more but not all of the participants (the “winners”) will receive by reason of their advances more than the amounts they have advanced, the identity of the winners being determined by any means which includes a random selection, a game, race, or contest, or any record or tabulation of the result of one or more events in which any participant has no interest except for its bearing upon the possibility that he may become a winner. 

In the 2020-2021 fiscal year the New York lottery contributed $3.59 billion to education.So far the largest New York jackpot is $432 million in Mega Millions. How did the winners plan to spend them and cope with such large sums? Robert Bailey who claimed $343.8 million Powerball jackpot in 2018 said he will take a trip to Las Vegas, have a vacation in the Bahamas and buy land for his mom. David Yax, who won $38,498,567 after withholdings from the $80 million jackpot in 2019, planned to set up a trust, invest and travel. But New York Lottery is not without funny curiosities. In 2022 it was reported that the wrong winning numbers appeared in one drawing of the New York Lottery which blamed “human error” for the wrong winning numbers. The correct numbers were later released and payments were temporarily suspended. In the same year the lottery launched $1,000,000 Lucky Dog scratch game. The scratcher features 12 different dog images. Still, all those numbers are not constraints of any sort and we may see more lottery records and other curiosities in the future. 

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