Cohens v. Virginia
Lotteries In America
The lottery in America dates to 1612, when the Virginia Company introduced a lottery with the authorization of the British sovereign. The practice caught on in the colonies, and lotteries served as a significant means of raising money to fund the American Revolution. Among the supporters of the lottery concept were Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.
Lotteries continued to be popular throughout the late eighteenth century and most of the nineteenth. By the mid-nineteenth century, the eastern states were raising some $66 million in annual funds by means of lotteries, and the practice expanded to the West. By the late 1800s, a variety of factors, including corruption in the operation of lotteries, served to virtually extinguish them in all states except Louisiana. In 1890, Congress passed the Anti-Lottery Act.
Since their reintroduction in New Hampshire in 1964, however, lotteries have proven more popular than ever, and with congressional authorization of new lottery standards in 1974, more states have started lotteries. Lotteries, however, continue to be a controversial means of raising funds: according to detractors, they disproportionately drain the finances of the poor.