1902 Encyclopedia > Lotteries


LOTTERIES. The word lottery has no very definite signification. It may be applied to any process of determining prizes by lot, whether the object be amusement, or gambling, or public profit. In the Roman Saturnalia and in the banquets of aristocratic Romans the object was amusement ; the guests received apophoreta. The same plan was followed on a magnificent scale by some of the emperors. Nero excited the people by giving such prizes as a house or a slave. Heliogabalus introduced an element of absurdity,—one ticket for a golden vase, another for six flies. This amusing custom descended to the festivals given by the feudal and merchant princes of Europe, especially of Italy ; and it afterwards formed a prominent feature of the splendid court hos-pitality of Louis XIV. In the Italian republics of the 16th century the lottery principle was applied to encourage the sale of merchandise. The lotto of Florence and the seminario of Genoa are well known, and Venice estab-lished a monopoly and drew a considerable revenue for the state. The first letters patent for a lottery in France were granted by Francis I., and in 1656 the Italian Tonti (the originator of " Tontines ") opened another for the building of a stone bridge between the Louvre and the Faubourg St Germain. The institution became very popular in France, and gradually assumed an important place in the Government finance. The par-liaments frequently protested against it, but it had the support of Mazarin, and Pontchartrain by this means raised the expenses of the Spanish Succession War. Necker, in his Administration des Finances, estimates the public charge for lotteries at 4,000,000 livres per annum. There were also lotteries for the benefit of religious com-munities and charitable purposes. Two of the largest were the Loteries de Piété and des Enfans Trouvés. These and also the great Loterie de l'École militaire were practically merged in the Loterie Royale by the famous decree of 1776, suppressing all private lotteries in France. The financial basis of these larger lotteries was to take -^ths for expenses and benefit, and return ^f-ths to the public who subscribed. The calculation of chances had become a familiar science. It is explained in detail by M. Caminade de Castres in Eric. Méth, Finances, ii., s. v. " Loterie." The names of the winning numbers in the first drawing were (1) extrait, (2) ambe, (3) terne, (4) quaterne, (5) quine. After this there were four drawings called primes gratuites. The extrait gave fifteen times the price of the ticket ; the quine gave one million times the price. These are said to be much more favourable terms than were given in Vienna, Frankfort, and other leading European cities at the end of the 18th century. There is no doubt that lotteries had a demoralizing effect on French society. They were de-nounced by the eloquent bishop of Autun as no better than the popular games of belle and biribi ; they were condemned on financial grounds by Turgot ; and Con-dillac compared them to the debasement of money which was at one time practised by the kings of France. The Loterie Royale, was ultimately suppressed in 1836. Under the law of 29th May 1844 lotteries may be held for the assistance of charity and the fine arts. The Société du Credit Foncier, and many of the large towns, are per-mitted to contract loans, the periodical repayments of which are determined by lot. This practice, which is prohibited in Germany and England, resembles the older system of giving higher and lower rates of interest for money according to lot. Lotteries were suppressed in Belgium in 1830, but they still figure largely in the State budgets of Germany, Holland, Spain, and Italy.

In England the earliest lotteries sanctioned by Government were for such purposes as the repair of harbours in 1569, and the Virginia Company in 1612. In 1696 by the Act 10 & 11 Will. III. c. 17 lotteries, with the exception of the Boyal Oak lottery, were prohibited as common nuisances, by which children, servants, and other unwary peisons had been ruined. This prohibition was in the 18th century gradually extended to illegal insurances on marriages and other events, and to a great many games with dice, such as faro, basset, hazard, except back-gammon and games played in the royal palace. In spite of these prohibitions, the Government from 1709 down to 1824 showed a bad example to the nation by annually raising considerable sums in lotteries authorized by Act of Parliament. The prizes were in the form of terminable or perpetual annuities. The ¿£10 tickets were sold at a premium of say 40 per cent, to contractors who resold them in retail (sometimes in one-sixteenth parts) by " morocco men," or men with red leather books who travelled through the country. As the drawing extended over forty days, a very pernicious system arose of insuring the fate of tickets during the drawing for a small premium of 4d. or 6d. This was partly cured by the Little Go Act of 1802, 42 Geo. III. c. 119, directed against the itinerant wheels which plied between the state lotteries, and partly by Perceval's Act in 1806, which confined the drawing of each lottery to one day. From 1793 to 1824 the Govern-ment made an average yearly profit of £346,765. Cope, one of the largest contractors, is said to have spent ¿£36,000 in advertisements in a single year. The English lotteries were used to raise loans for general purposes, but latterly they were confined to particular objects, such as the improvement of London, the disposal of Cox's museum, the purchase of Tomkin's picture gallery, &c. Through the efforts of Lyttleton and others a strong public opinion was formed against them, and in 1826 they were finally prohibited. An energetic proposal to revive the system was made before the select committee on metropolitan improvements in 1830, but it was not listened to. By a unique blunder in legislation, authority was given to hold a lottery under the Act 1 & 2 Will. IV. c. 8, which pro-vides a scheme for the improvement of the city of Glasgow. These "Glasgow lotteries" were suppressed by 4 & 5 Will. IV. c. 37. The statute law in Scotland is the same as in England. At common law in Scotland it is probable that all lotteries and raffles, for whatever purpose held, may be indicted as nuisances. The art unions are sup-posed to be protected by a special statute.

The American Congress of 1776 instituted a national lottery. The scheme was warmly advocated by Jefferson and other statesmen, and before 1820 at least seventy Acts were passed by Congress authorizing lotteries for various public purposes, such as schools, roads, &c,—about 85 per cent, of the subscriptions being returned in prizes. A sounder opinion now prevails on this subject in America.

The only systematic work on this subject is the Critique hist. pol. mor. earn, et comm. sur les loteries anc. et. mod. spirituelles et temporelles des Stats et des églises, Amsterdam, 1697, 3 vols,, by the Bolognese historian Gregorio Leti. The subject is also dealt with by J. Dessaulx in his work De la passion du jeu depuis les anciens temps jusqu' a nos jours, Paris, 1779. (W. C. S.)

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