BY CHANCE A WINNER: The History of Lotteries by George Sullivan

BY CHANCE A WINNER: The History of Lotteries

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The little known history of lotteries provides background for an evaluation of their present revival as a source of income for impoverished state governments. In colonial America private and public lotteries flourished as a fund-raising device (one was sponsored by George Washington and another planned by Thomas Jefferson to pay off his debts) until public revulsion against corrupt practices came to a head in the Louisiana Lottery scandal. The draft is a lottery too, though its goals are different, and many foreign countries operate drawings (offering more favorable odds than are given in the United States). Sullivan presents the pros and cons -- concentrating on psychological and moral generalities without too much reference to illegal gambling or the practical aspects of administration, but mostly, it's interesting to see how the subject leads sideways into other areas of history -- the New York Draft Riots, the settlement of Jamestown (financed by a lottery) and the growth of American colleges. While a book-length study of this ancient form of gambling -- from the Teutonic etymology (hleut) to Charles Klotz's emotions on winning one million dollars in 1964 -- may tell more than most potential plungers want to know, fans of historical esoteria will count this their lucky day.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1972
Publisher: Dodd, Mead