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There are national lotteries in at least fifty-one countries on four continents, not including the United States, which has several large nationwide lottery-style games, but no national lottery. In 1964, New Hampshire became the first U.S. state to establish a statewide lottery. It was dubbed the “sweepstakes”, and to get around Federal laws prohibiting lotteries, it was affiliated with the sport of horseracing. New York established its own lottery in 1967, followed by New Jersey in 1970. Ticket sales from lotteries increased forty-fold from 1964 to 1999, from $5.7 million to over $202.4 million.

The 1980s saw the rise of the large, multi-state lottery jackpots. The Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) was formed in 1987 as a non-profit organization owned by its member lotteries, which consisted of many state lottery organizations around the country. This organization administers multi-state lottery-style games in which member states can choose to participate. The first game, called Lotto America, was established in 1988 and ran for four years before being replaced in 1992 by the game Powerball, which is still in operation to this day. Powerball has grown over the years to become the number one lottery game in America, as it is played in 29 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Other games similar to Powerball currently being administered by the MUSL are Hot Lotto, Wildcard 2, 2 by 2, and a unique video lottery game called Cashola. This game consists of interconnected video lottery terminals, which are placed in gambling friendly areas such as racetracks. Players choose the terminal, much like a slot machine, and then insert money to play. With every unsuccessful play nationwide, the central grand prize jackpot rises by a certain amount until someone wins.

The Big Game was formed in 1996 as a large lottery to rival the games being operated by the MUSL. Michigan, Massachusetts, Virginia, Illinois, and Maryland signed on as the initial states to offer this game, with Georgia jumping over from Powerball the following month. The game’s first $5 million jackpot was won by a person in Chesterfield Township, Michigan. With a record $363 million jackpot won in 2000, multi-state lottery games generated a huge wave of interest in the years that followed, and in 2002, Ohio and New York joined with the other six states to create a new game known as Mega Millions. The game added Washington that September, and in December 2003, Texas signed on. The newest state to join the Mega Millions game was California in June 2005. Today, Mega Millions jackpots begin at $12 million, and rise with each drawing in which there is no grand prizewinner. The amount of the increase depends on how many tickets were sold for the previous drawing.

In the south, Georgia, Kentucky, and Virginia combined their respective Lotto games into one multi-state game called Lotto South in 2001. This was done to increase the size of their jackpots, so as to ultimately create more interest in the game. Like most other multi-state games, drawings took place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the jackpots would increase each time if there were no grand prizewinners. The record prize for this game was $27 million, won in December 2005 by a single ticket-holder in Rome, Georgia. Lotto South was retired in January 2006, and replaced by a new game called Win For Life.

Lotteries have had a rich history in the United States, beginning with small state lotteries in the sixties, and growing exponentially to the huge, multi-state games that are in place today. From Mega Millions to Powerball, there are many ways for the American consumer to have the opportunity to dream of being a multi-millionaire, all for just a dollar.

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