Criticism notwithstanding, lotteries have become an increasingly popular method of government fundraising: much more preferable to taxes, certainly, the lotto gives payers something tangible in return for their cash. Queen Elizabeth held the first one in Britain in 1566 “in preparation of the havens and strength of the Realme, and towardes such other publique good workes.” By the 1990s the lotto system was transformed into its current incarnation, operated on a franchise basis by the state.
On this day, November 19, in 1994, UK’s first National Lottery held a drawing, for a £5.87 million jackpot.
The major difference between Queen Elizabeth’s lotto and the National Lottery of 1994 was the size of the prize. Queen Elizabeth promised the winner the equivalent of the prices paid for the tickets, making the lottery more like a three-year loan for the monarchy. The National Lotto, like the other state-run ones, of course makes no such promises.