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History of the Lottery in the UK
By Yasmin Hennessy

While you are enjoying your stay in the UK you'll see National Lottery tickets for sale in most supermarkets, gas stations and corner stores. If you fancy a try at becoming the UK's next big winner here's some interesting information you should know about this national institution.

The Royal Lotteries
Although lotteries have been documented since Classical times they enjoyed a significant resurgence in 16th century Europe as a means to raise funds to finance wars and various other projects. The first lottery to be recorded in British history was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I in 1566. The official objective of the lottery was to raise funds for the "reparation of the havens and strengths of the Realme and towards such other public good works". More specifically, the money raised was used to help expand the Royal Navy and invest in developing ports as England competed against Spain, Portugal and Holland to establish overseas export markets and colonies.

This first lottery was far too expensive for ordinary citizens to afford entry. Tickets cost ten shillings and the top prize was 5000 which was an enormous sum of money in those days. In fact, much like modern lotteries which can only afford to pay out the top jackpots in annual increments the first lottery in Britain awarded only 3000 of the prize in "ready money", 700 of the prize was paid in plate and the remainder was paid in tapestries, covertures as well as "good linen cloth"! Unlike the lotteries we are familiar with today, the total amount of money awarded was equivalent to the total price of all the tickets and every entry won a prize. So how did the organizers make a profit? Strictly speaking, they didn't. However since the prize money was not awarded until 1569, three years after the ticket sales, in essence the lottery gave the Crown a 3 year, interest free loan! In addition, in order to sweeten the deal, any person who bought a ticket was exonerated for any crimes they had committed other than murder, felonies, piracy or treason!

After the first lottery the English government sold off the rights to sell tickets to various brokers who would in turn hire their own agents to deal them to the public. Although the last of these Royal lotteries was held in 1826, the use of lotteries as a means to raise money caught on in many of Britain's new colonies. In fact, a lottery was held by the Virginia Company of London to support the founding and settlement of Jamestown, England's first permanent settlement in what would later become the United States of America! During much of the Victoria Era, between 1826 and 1934 lotteries were put on a strict hiatus in the UK. Before 'The Betting and Lotteries Act of 1934' reintroduced lotteries to the British public they were actually illegal in the United Kingdom due to a clamp down on unlicensed gambling.

The Modern Lottery
The current National Lottery has now been running successfully in the United Kingdom since 1994 by the current operators Camelot Group Ltd. However, the National lottery has changed significantly since 1526. For starters, at 2 per ticket everyone can now afford to play although the bonus of absolving ticket holders of petty crimes is no longer available! The lottery is now run not as an interest free loan so that the Royal Navy can build new ships-of-the-line but as a means of funding a wide variety of charities and public good works. In fact, over 30 billion (over $50 billion USD) has been raised for good causes since its launch.

The UK National Lottery is also quite different from the mega lotteries which are offered in the United States. Because there are less players involved the size of the jackpots are smaller with the largest National Lottery jackpot awarding a 22 million prize (about $36 million). However the chances of winning the UK lotto jackpot are also much better, about 1 in 14 million compared to about 1 in 259 million of winning an American lottery like Mega Millions!

Unfortunately if you'd like to play the National Lottery you need to be a UK resident in order to claim your prize. However there are now some ways that you can take part in the fun and excitement of the Wednesday and Saturday night draws without living in the UK! By visiting Lottoland you can play UK Lotto and other great international lotteries from around the world from your laptop or smart phone. With almost 500 years of history the National Lottery is a Saturday night institution in the UK enjoyed by millions of Britons each week.

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