Playing the Lottery – A Worldwide Tradition

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Not so long ago, lottery wins that went into the millions were rare, but nowadays, there are many different lotteries to play in different countries, many of which offer jackpots worth multi-millions. It’s not unusual to read about people who have won amounts of cash that are so huge that it’s difficult to comprehend how the winner could possibly ever come to terms with their new-found wealth.

Although the sums available to be won used to be more modest, the concept of lotteries around the world has a long and rich history. Take a look at some of the world’s lotto traditions.

The lottery with the sharing approach

31416” (CC BY 2.0) by Alvy

In Spain, the biggest tradition when it comes to buying a lottery ticket is El Gordo. This translates as “the fat one” and it’s the name for the main jackpot prize of the Spanish Christmas lottery, the Sorteo de Navidad, a draw that has taken place in the week before Christmas in Spain since 1892. While there are plenty of other lotteries to take part in, this is the one that has the most resonance for the Spanish population as it has such a huge prize pool attached to it. Not only that, it’s also got a different feeling to it as many people don’t buy an individual ticket, they buy a “participation” of a ticket instead. This is because whole tickets are pretty expensive (around €200), so it’s more affordable to buy a share instead. As a consequence, winners often know the other people who win with them, so there’s a real sense of community in an El Gordo win.

Love matches down to chance

Beynac-et-Cazenac” (CC BY 2.0) by Capt’ Gorgeous

Today in France, the national lottery is called Loto, and just like in many other countries around the world, you can buy your ticket from a number of different retailers when you’re out doing the shopping. The downside to this is that you have to spend time in a queue while you wait for other people to choose their numbers. However, just as you can now choose to do your weekly shop online, so you can also take advantage of the fact that the lottery is going digital and bet on the winning numbers online. Setting up a lotto account not only saves time but, with the ability to set up a regular lottery ticket purchase, there’s no risk of forgetting to buy your lucky numbers for each draw.

A tax that was really a lottery

In Canada, lotteries were illegal until the 1960s. In a bid to recoup funds spent on the new subway system and the Expo 67 in Montreal, the mayor, John Drapeau, announced a “voluntary tax”, which was really a lottery by another name. Anyone who took part by paying a $2 fee, could be entered into a draw that had a $100,000 prize up for grabs.

Expo 67” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by The Webhamster

The mayor had to defend the fact that his “tax” was not a lottery and he did this by stating that prizes were given out in the form of bars of silver, not money and that winners of the draw would only receive their prize if they could answer four questions about the city of Montreal correctly. Conveniently, the answers were printed on the back of the draw tickets!

By 1969, participating in lotteries had become legal in Canada, thanks to an amendment to the country’s Criminal Code. Québec ran the first public lottery initiative with Loto-Québec in 1970.

Today, of course, there are two national lotteries in Canada; the Lotto Max and the Lotto /49. But Canadians aren’t restricted to playing their own country’s lotteries, of course. As in many other countries, there’s the possibility of participating in international lotteries such as El Gordo, the US Powerball or Euromillions by setting up an online lottery account.


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