The Lottery

A worldwide look at lotteries


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Does anybody remember why governments started Lotteries?

In the beginning

The first recorded signs of a lottery are keno slips from the Chinese Han Dynasty between 205 and 187 BC. These lotteries are believed to have helped to finance major government projects like the Great Wall of China. From the Chinese "The Book of Songs" (2nd millennium BC.) comes a reference to a game of chance as "the drawing of wood", which in context appears to describe the drawing of lots. From the Celtic era, the Cornish words "teulel pren" translates into "to throw wood" and means "to draw lots". The Iliad of Homer refers to lots being placed into Agamemnon's helmet to determine who would fight Hector.

The first known European lotteries were held during the Roman Empire, mainly as an amusement at dinner parties. Each guest would receive a ticket, and prizes would often consist of fancy items such as dinnerware. Every ticket holder would be assured of winning something. This type of lottery, however, was no more than the distribution of gifts by wealthy noblemen during the Saturnalian revelries. The earliest records of a lottery offering tickets for sale is the lottery organized by Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. The funds were for repairs in the City of Rome, and the winners were given prizes in the form of articles of unequal value.

The first recorded lotteries to offer tickets for sale with prizes in the form of money were held in the Low Countries in the 15th century. Various towns held public lotteries to raise money for town fortifications, and to help the poor. The town records of Ghent, Utrecht, and Bruges indicate that lotteries may be even older. A record dated May 9, 1445 at L'Ecluse refers to raising funds to build walls and town fortifications, with a lottery of 4,304 tickets and total prize money of 1737 florins.[1] In the 17th century it was quite usual in the Netherlands to organize lotteries to collect money for the poor or in order to raise funds for all kinds of public usages. The lotteries proved very popular and were hailed as a painless form of taxation. The Dutch state-owned Staatsloterij is the oldest running lottery.

Chasing the big win: Scoop 6 rollovers

On Sharplayer

I chucked another £10 into the syndicate pot this weekend for a punt at a massive pay-out. The scoop 6 jackpot is at a record breaking £7.5m, now making it a value punt. Assuming a single winner, my £10 would have returned somewhere in the region of £200,000. Not a life changing sum, but certainly enough to jump around the room too. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be again this week, and the jackpot rolled over again to keep the syndicates chasing it’s eye-watering payout net weekend.

This is an example of chasing a big win. The decision to play when the rollover is this size is a positive value move, however the size of the jackpot has no bearing on the likelihood to win. A syndicate yeps reduce the variance, whilst maintaining the relative value of the wager. In theory as the jackpot rises, and the relative value increases, more syndicates will chase the win with increasing stakes. The same can happen with lottery rollovers, or even slots jackpots.

It’s a fun part of this game that you may one day hit a large payout. These are the chances that many people pay for daily, be it when they buy a scratch-card or play in a casino recreationally. For us it’s a part of the variance we pay for anyway, as the house edge of all jackpot scenarios includes the value of the jackpot. However statistically and advantage player is certainly far more likely to hit a jackpot than your average player, simply due to their turnover.

There are tales of a few slots jackpot chasers, who have identified situations where a jackpot becomes large enough to create positive value, and have pitted their bankroll and wits against the variance to chase it to the bitter ends. As I still struggle with some fairly mild negative variance, I think I’m a long shout from chasing jackpots. I’ll still be chucking a little money into the Scoop 6 again next week, partly just for fear of missing out.

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