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Italian Lotteries

Published on: 29/10/2013

Almost every country on the planet has at least one constantly running lottery. The few exceptions are mainly Middle Eastern countries, where any gambling is prohibited for religious reasons. Most countries actually have multiple lotteries – with some being privately owned, while others are under the jurisdiction of the government.

How did these lotteries come about though? Did they all spring up simultaneously across the planet? Did mankind reach a level of evolution where the conception of a lottery was suddenly both desirable and self evident? Historical research suggests that the first lotteries were almost certainly held in Italy. Other ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians and the Babylonians certainly played chance based games, utilizing cast sticks or stones as rudimentary dice, but the first actual lottery type game seems to have originated in Italy, about 2000 years ago.

The game was styled as a kind of lucky draw, with players taking marked stones from a large container. Apparently it was a demand of the roman legions that wherever their campaigns took them, this lottery went with them also. The game went through many modifications over the centuries, but it was always played, and drawings became more and more frequent as time went on. Historically numbers were called once a month, perhaps on a full moon – but eventually this was not enough to quench the public’s appetites for the game, and the drawings were made more often.

By the 16th century in Venice the lottery was a huge event – indeed for many people it constituted the prime vocation of their lives. At this point it was under the control of the wealthy merchants in the Rialto District. They actually used the lottery as a method to purchase their goods. They could certainly sell an item of cloth for a hundred ducats, but they could just as easily sell a thousand tickets at a ducat each giving a chance to win it.

Eventually the Venetian authorities stepped in, ostensibly to bring the rampant lottery craze under dignified control, but in reality they were more interested in gaining a large revenue from ticket sales. They were extremely innovative – raffling everything from property, jobs, items of furniture… anything that would draw the public in. They were not completely mercenary and avaricious in these activities however, since a portion of the revenue generated was set aside for public welfare, and also to raise ransom for Italian’s held hostage abroad.

It wasn’t until 1530 that the world’s first National Lottery was formed. Once again this was an Italian innovation, and was known as “Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia.” Incredibly this lottery has continued till the present day, though of course it has undergone numerous modifications and improvements. With the unification of Italy in the middle of the nineteenth century a state lottery, encompassing the entire country was introduced. Inaugurated in 1863, this lottery has been popular ever since. Following the second world war yet another nationwide lottery was constructed – Enalotto, as it was called, was an immediate hit.

All regional lotteries today fall under the strict jurisdiction of the Lottomatica S.p.A, a state institution set up to regulate the industry, and ensure much of the profits are distributed to charitable causes. The biggest success of this institution is surely SuperEnalotto. This was made by a division of the S.P.A, the Sport Italia Societa a Responsabilità Limitata, more commonly known as Sisal.

SuperEnalotto is a thrice weekly lottery, and perhaps the most loved throughout Italy. Its low price – just a single euro for two tickers, has ensured its continuing popularity. A second draw, known as the “Superstar” determining an extra number, takes place during the week also. The jackpot for SuperEnalotto begins at an impressive €1.3 million, but if this is not won the prize rolls over.

Published on: 29/10/2013 © Bet Bind