Around the end of the middle ages in Europe certain countries started creating national lotteries. The original premise of starting a lottery was to raise funds for the needs of the public, and to complete the greatest of public works. It quickly became an important form of gambling that to this day more people gamble on than anything else.

The first European lottery began in 1466 in Holland when the widow of great Flemish painter Jan van Eyck promoted the lottery in Bruges to find winners for some expensive paintings to which buyers were not easy to find. Lotteries in the 16th and 17th centuries more often than not offered physical prizes as opposed to cash. As seen in the first English lottery in 1569 which offered silverware and tapestries as prizes.

In France in the year 1530 Frances I of France started a government lottery to help with the country’s growing financial problems. The popularity of lotteries in France continued to grow until 1776 when a new law destroyed all private lotteries, when they dipped in popularity till 1836 when all public lotteries were abolished. In 1844 the lottery made a comeback to France with the new condition that the profits be used to help charitable causes and to encourage the finer arts.

Italy took it’s first foray into lottery games in 1539 with the establishment of “La Lotto De Firenze”, the very first Italian lottery, organised in Florence. The real popularity of the Italian lottery stemmed from the fact that they were one of the first to offer cash prizes. Once the citizens of other Italian cities saw the big cash prizes being awarded in Florence they soon nearly all followed suit. By 1863 the game was so massively enjoyed that the first National Italian Lottery was founded, simply titled “Lotto”. Since then the funds raised from weekly drawings have become key to the state revenue of Italy.

Since the days of single country lotteries that had tapestries and silverware for prizes we have entered an age of pan-European lotteries that offer enormous cash prizes. The minimum jackpot prize for the multi-nation Euromillions lottery for instance is €15,000,000. Euromillion’s jackpots frequently rollover and the potential prize money can reach as high as €190 million.

A far cry from the days of yore no doubt. As time goes by more and more players have been turning to the internet to purchase Euromillions tickets and the history of European lottery games looks set to continue online.

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