OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – October 4, 2005
When the Oklahoma Lottery commences ticket sales on October 12, it will continue a lottery legacy that dates back nearly 400 years – long before there was a United States of America, long before organized methods of collecting taxes, and years prior to the establishment of banking systems.
Borrowing an idea from its native England, the Virginia Company of London petitioned King James in 1611 for a royal charter to help pay passage for many of the new settlers to the Jamestown colony. The charter was granted in March 1612 and lotteries as a means of raising money to fund important causes were off and running in America.
“Much as they are today, lotteries during America’s crucial formative years were an important revenue source for building, linking, educating and protecting our country,” said Jim Scroggins, executive director of the Oklahoma Lottery. “In America’s infancy, an investment in lottery was viewed by the public as an investment in the country.”
Early American lotteries were organized to build roads, bridges, harbors, canals, schools, and were even used to help the Continental Congress offset the high cost of the Revolutionary War. Lotteries held during the decade following the war allowed Congress to repay foreign and domestic loans made to the United States in the interest of the revolution. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and numerous other major figures of the day organized lotteries as a means of funding important public and private projects. It was Jefferson who once said, “A lottery is the perfect tax…laid only upon the willing.”
Between 1744 and 1774, 158 lottery licenses were granted in America. About 100 lotteries were held in the new United States between 1783 and 1790. Lottery tickets are believed to be some of the earliest documents to carry the words “United States.”
Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown, William and Mary and numerous other prestigious universities owe their first campuses to the selling and drawing of lots. Records show hundreds of lotteries implemented for the benefit of all sorts of schools and academies – from grade and secondary to preparatory, military and vocational.
Lotteries flourished during the 1800s as a popular form of entertainment. Most of the money lotteries raised in the early 1800s went to upgrade the country’s transportation system. Lotteries were banned in 1895 in the United States – and for 70 years thereafter – because of isolated fraud and abuse by the infamous Louisiana Lottery Company.
“Despite this decades-long setback, America’s fascination with lottery games would continue, as would the desire of states to find alternative methods of funding critical and worthy programs without raising taxes,” said Scroggins.
Government-authorized lotteries in the U.S. re-emerged in September 1964. The first jurisdiction to authorize a lottery was the state of New Hampshire. Several legislative defeats were overturned when a state legislator tied lottery receipts to New Hampshire’s educational systems.
Forty-one years later, stringent public sector regulation, private sector expertise, ironclad security, and state-of-the-art technology combine to provide much-needed revenue for a diversity of beneficiary programs, including public education, senior citizens, transportation, pensions for police, firefighters and teachers, parks and recreation, and tourism. In Wisconsin, lottery proceeds provide property tax relief for eligible citizens.
Oklahoma will join 23 other states whose lottery proceeds benefit, in whole or in part, public education programs.