11th January 1569.

George Orwell in his novel ‘1984’ (written in the 1940’s), said ‘the lottery with its weekly payout of enormous prizes, was the one public event to which the proles paid serious attention’.

England’s first state lottery was drawn Today in 1569 at the west door of the old St Paul’s Cathedral, London to raise money for public works, fortifications and bridges and towards the Greenwich Hospital for seamen. (1)

Draws were held regularly between 1694 and 1768, but became corrupt, with bad behaviour as crowds besieged the lottery office, and were accompanied with much excitement, with torch-lit processions, preceded the revolving drum.

Much finance was raised through private lotteries, such as the Sunderland Bridge Lottery of 1816. Also the British Museum was later to be built with lottery proceeds. The opening of its library to scholars depended utterly on the funds.

In the next century, Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer, Harold Macmillan outlined in his Budget on 17th April 1956 the new tax free National Savings Premium Bonds, which were first issued in November.

Labour’s Harold Wilson, probably in an outbreak of sour grapes, wasn’t impressed as he described it as ‘A Squalid Raffle’.

The computer electronic random numerator indicator, popularly known by the acronym ‘Ernie’ picked the first numbers in June 1957, offering prizes up to £1000. There was a limit of £250 on holdings, which by 1999 stood at £20,000.

Now gambling was officially supported by the government, more followed  with off-course betting shops being legalized in Britain in 1961, after the 1960 Betting and Gaming Act. Under the Labour Party in 1968 corrupt casinos were brought within the law in another Gaming Act.

Up until the 1960’s, gambling  didn’t figure in the ordinary persons’ budget, those who wished to gamble on the horses, having to rely on illegal ‘street bookies’ and ‘bookies’ runners’, who did a nefarious trade, with constant fear of apprehension by the police.

In 1994 the Tory Government set up a private consortium to run the new State Lottery called Camelot, which included the then Cadbury-Schweppes Company; ironical as the original Cadbury Family were Quakers and anti-gambling.

Since 2007 betting shops have been allowed to open on winter as well as summer evenings, and now one can indulge one’s passion freely on-line or through the TV.

(1) In 1566 a lottery was chartered by Queen Elizabeth to ‘ raise money for reparation of the havens and strength of the Realme, and towards such other publique good workes’. Everyone got a prize.

Appeals to chance appear in both Old and New Testaments: Jonah (1.7) and Acts (1.26), with the intention of discerning the will of God.

Ref: Tudor history.org/calendar. Important Dates in Calendar Order.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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