The first recorded lotteries date from the time of the Ancient Chinese and are thought to have helped finance the construction of the Great Wall of China during the Han Dynasty. Later, lotteries were popularized in the Roman Empire, where they were used as entertainment at dinner parties. The first commercial lotteries were organized by Emperor Augustus to help fund public works and projects. However, this was banned for over two centuries. Only later was it accepted as a legitimate source of public funding.
While many states have introduced online versions of their lottery games, most of them have done so through the legislative process. Adding “including online sales” to a state’s lottery law is often equivalent to adding formal language, avoiding the possibility of a future administration challenging the legality of online games. Some states, such as Washington D.C. and Rhode Island, have gotten around this process altogether, deciding that their existing laws provided sufficient leeway to allow for online lottery sales. In addition to these states, there are also five countries that do not have any lottery at all.
In the United States, the lottery has existed since the early 1700s, but most of the state lotteries were only established in the last decade. In the 18th century, newspaper ads indicate that there were hundreds of lotteries throughout the United States. New Hampshire introduced the first state lottery in 1934, and in 1964, it became legal in the US. Today, forty-five states and the District of Columbia operate lotteries, with the Virgin Islands introducing its own lottery in 2021.